1,000 Industrial Drones for Construction: DJI and Skycatch Make a Deal with Komatsu

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There is absolutely no doubt that drones offer a high ROI for the construction industry.  But the notoriously traditionalist sector has been slower than others to adopt drones on worksites.  Now global drone leader DJI and commercial drone data company Skycatch have scored a deal to deliver 1,000 high-precision drones to construction giant Komatsu.

It’s a big step forward for the commercial application of drones.  “This represents the largest commercial drone order in history,” says DJI.  “Each drone is manufactured by DJI and outfitted with specialized Skycatch technology, and is the first time DJI has manufactured a custom drone for a partner.”

Komatsu has been out in front of a push to innovate in the construction sector.  Far beyond dumptrucks and excavators, Komatsu is developing unmanned and autonomous vehicles for remote operation in dangerous terrain.  They are introducing technology to allow machines to tackle skilled operations with minimal driver input.  They are working on connecting machine operators and project managers, providing data on jobsite conditions and equipment.  Drones are a logical area to pursue.  DJI explains their use on the job site:

“The Skycatch Explore1 drone autonomously flies over job sites to create highly accurate 3D site maps and models and will be deployed on Komatsu job sites. This map data will be used for Komatsu Smart Construction’s new data service that enables robotic earth moving equipment, used in the earthwork stage of the construction process, to correctly dig, bulldoze, and grade land autonomously according to digital construction plans.”

“Conducting a site survey using a drone used to take hours. However, by implementing Explore1, users can carry out surveying quickly and easily. Now it is possible to perform drone surveying every day. Taking off, landing and flight route setting are all automated. Ground Control Points (GCPs) are no longer needed. 3D data is immediately generated and an entire construction site can be visually checked with the 3D map. The Explore1 is a true game changer for the construction site,” said Chikashi Shike, Executive Office of Smart Construction Division at Komatsu.

Built on DJI’s customizable Matrice 100 enterprise drone platform, Explore 1 is part of Skycatch’s High Precision Package along with the Edge1 RTK base station, a “highly powerful ruggedized computer with software that locally processes drone images into precise 3D models regardless of wireless connectivity and location,” says DJI. “Together, these technologies enable firms to create highly accurate maps and point clouds, discover costly job site mistakes, and predict schedule delays, saving up to tens of thousands of dollars per week.”

“Being the first company to integrate into DJI’s manufacturing process will deliver incredible value to our customers worldwide,” said Christian Sanz, CEO at Skycatch. “By combining DJI’s mastery of hardware manufacturing and aerial technology with Skycatch’s data processing and customer expertise, we’ve created the most powerful and comprehensive solution for enterprise customers everywhere.”

“The Explore1 demonstrates DJI’s strategy to provide customers with the most powerful and reliable drone platforms on the market that can be tailored to the needs of any industry,” said Jan Gasparic, Head of Enterprise Partnerships at DJI. “Our close collaboration with Skycatch on this exciting program has resulted in a best-in-class solution of software and hardware for aerial surveying that truly changes the game for both our customers and the commercial drone industry.”

It’s a great deal for DJI and Skycatch, and for Komatsu.  But most of all, it may be instrumental in showing more players in the construction sector just what drones can do on their worksites – and that’s good for stakeholders in both industries.


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