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DEPLOYING DRONES IN FIELD SERVICE Bas de Vos*

We hear a lot about digital transformation these days. However, digital transformation is not just applying new technologies to do something different from before. It’s also about doing what you do today but better. It’s about innovating in new products and services and transforming your business model for competitive advantage.

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e want to inspire organisations to get more out of their business applications by connecting new technology with their people and processes. So IFS Labs looked at what drones had to offer. In many industries, drones now offer a way to realign resources, gather data, reduce costs, ensure safety, optimise processes and increase efficiency. Combining that with other new technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), enlarges the opportunity even more. We recently demonstrated a prototype that showcased an actual flying drone connected to our IFS Applications enterprise software using our new IoT Business Connector. To create a proof of concept combining drones with enterprise software to provide real business value, we looked at aerial power line inspections in forested areas.

Autonomous power line inspections While aerial power lines are generally easier to run and more cost-effective to build, they are also vulnerable to severe weather. If a tree falls on a power line, it disrupts service and typically requires a helicopter to be sent out for inspection. Drones are more cost-effective than helicopters in doing such an inspection. We went a step further, using computer image analysis to allow the drone to work fully autonomously. The drone flies over the power line, where the video that the drone provides is processed in real time, detecting any obstructions, and those observations are sent through the IFS IoT Business Connector to IFS Applications. Then, a work order can automatically be scheduled and dispatched in the most optimal way. The integration with business software is what makes the proof of concept so exciting. We demonstrated that linking a drone

directly into a business application could effectively multiply its value out in the field. If you look at drones standalone, they are already cheaper to operate than a helicopter. They cost less and require fewer people to operate. In addition, the drone can work autonomously. When you add in advanced analytics such as computer image analysis and connect it to business applications you can gain even further efficiencies.

Making field engineers more productive Enterprise software can perform scheduling and route optimisation on the work orders that the drone creates. Then the field engineers contracted to fix the breaks that the drone has logged can also do their work more efficiently. The software could also work out what spare parts are needed and produce a plan to deploy engineers in the optimal way. The exact GPS coordinates would be sent through to their mobile devices, along with any other information required to complete the job. We can think of dozens of applications for drones working in combination with enterprise software to transform existing ways of doing things. Oil and gas pipeline inspections, environmental inspections, inspections of hard-to-reach transmission towers or industrial equipment — everywhere you have a difficult or dangerous place to get to, drones can help to make people safer and more efficient. Then there are all the places drones can be used for deliveries. If I am an engineer on an offshore oil rig, I can use a drone to deliver urgently needed supplies. Even better, if the drone was connected to business software, deliveries could be scheduled whenever spare parts were running low. The software could also

INSIGHTS 2017 51

Profile for Westwick-Farrow Media

Sustainability Matters Dec 2016/Jan 2017  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...

Sustainability Matters Dec 2016/Jan 2017  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...