Botlink: Data isn't a problem for well-connected drones

By Patrick C. Miller | March 03, 2016

An unmanned aerial system (UAS) that captures data and automatically pushes it where it needs to go for timely analysis is a problem the UAS industry thinks it has, but doesn’t.

“The problem is that people in the drone space think it’s their problem,” said Shawn Muehler, COO with Botlink, a UAS software development company located in Fargo, North Dakota. “They’re taking the data they gather and trying to analyze it themselves with their own software. There is not a data problem in the drone industry because we’re not the ones who own the data.”

Two recent developments demonstrate how Muehler and his team at Botlink are providing a solution to the problem.

The company worked on 3D Robotics' open platform to create an Internet-connected version of its Solo drone using Botlink’s XRD cellular device. Botlink has also partnered with Procore Technologies—a giant in the construction management software business—to push drone-collected data through the Internet to Procore’s software.

“We’re allowing people to use drones as an actual work tool,” Muehler said. “3DR makes the commercial platforms and we’re the workflow behind it. By connecting the drone space by a cellular link to the Internet, you can take that data and actually do something with it instead of just having it on a camera’s SD card.”

According to Muehler, the best approach is to send the data to a program developed by a company such as Procore that understands the construction industry and has nearly 2 million users. In fact, Muehler said Botlink is working with a major precision agriculture software company to push drone data to its program to farmers and other users.

“Through Procore Connect and our partnership with Botlink, we are able to provide our customers with access to drone technology that offers real-­time aerial imagery,” said Steve Zahm, Procore Technologies president. “Procore Connect makes it easy to integrate with the apps, solutions and processes that our clients want to use.”

Muehler said data problems occur when big data gathered by UAS piles up while awaiting analysis.  

“Why is the drone space holding on to the data when we’re not the ones doing anything with it?” he asked. “We’re not the analytics engine behind it. Even if we wanted to do the analytics, we’re not going to compete with the established companies that know how to do it.”

Botlink’s software also provides an interface for UAS operators that aids with situational awareness and provides them with the flight information they need to know—such as weather alerts, aircraft locations and flight restrictions—that enables them to fly safely without being overloaded.

“Many operators don’t have aviation knowledge or experience,” Muehler said. “They just want to get a specific set of data for their workflow. Gathering the data is actually what they want to do. With a cell-connected drone, they can focus on what they need to do.”

He describes Botlink’s approach as an A to Z solution.

“We have created the ultimate workflow machine for this entire industry,” Muehler said.


For more on the UAS Industry, follow us on Twitter @UASMagazine