Sentera’s software simplifies UAS data handling for end users

By Patrick C. Miller | October 08, 2015

The ability of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to gather huge quantities of data is well known, but getting data into the hands of end-users who can use it to make decisions is the difficult part.

Minneapolis-based Sentera LLC learned this lesson after gathering a year’s worth of information collected from 8,000 UAS flights over 15 million acres from which 16 million images were captured resulting in 175 terabytes of data.

“It’s about finding that needle in a haystack after you’ve taken the photo,” said Greg Emerick, Sentera’s executive vice president for business development. “It’s where, when, the context of the situation and how you can find it again and make it shareable.”

The desire to make UAS data shareable in a timely manner is what led Sentera to develop its OnTop Platform as a means of managing millions of images for infrastructure inspection and precision agriculture, the company’s two primary areas of focus.

The platform includes a mobile app and desktop client that automatically sync with each other. All imagery is saved to a secure encrypted cloud server. Once uploaded, it’s available instantly anywhere in the world. 

“To unlock the value of the data, you have to make it shareable,” Emerick explained. “If a technician captures some information, it can quickly be shared with others so that decisions can be made and people can realize the value of that information as quickly as possible.”

Sentera’s OnTop software give customers the ability to analyze image data and record the exact location, date, time, and asset type associated with every inspection photo. By automatically downloading data and making every image searchable and shareable, operational efficiencies are increased. 

“In the end, we’re more about the software and the sensors and organizing and managing that data,” Emerick said. “We figured out that it’s really the hardest part about all of this. We want to try to make it really simple.”

Emerick said the program is designed to be technology agnostic. In other words, if customers are flying their own UAS and sensors or using their own software tools, OnTop can integrate with what they have, as well as the UAS and sensors Sentera flies.

Using UAS and OnTop for inspecting cellular towers—considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the country—Emerick said Sentera has helped its customers reduce the time spent climbing tours between 30 and 50 percent.

“It’s a profound impact on the industry and safety,” he noted. “We’re not going to replace any jobs. We’re just going to make them safer and more efficient because you’ll never turn a bolt with a UAV.”

According to Emerick, Sentera has found an important niche in the UAS industry and its products have been well received.

“We’ve got customers in five different countries already using our OnTop product,” said. “The data side is something that everybody struggles with and we’ve hit a vein on what we’re trying to do to help folks.”


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