DJI is making a major play in the commercial drone industry with FlightHub, a web-based platform for drone fleet management.
Chinese drone giant DJI is thought to have at least a 70 percent market share of all global hardware purchases in the drone industry. That share is only expected to grow as competitors struggle to match the company’s aggressive pricing and iteration strategy and fall by the wayside.
The fact that the Chinese manufacturer is turning its hand to enterprise software will be worrying for even established software-as-a-service drone management platforms in the industry. In short, DJI is fast becoming the behemoth of drones.
FlightHub: Drone operation management
DJI’s enterprise software announcement is, on the one hand, a bold step into new territory. Although the company provides the hardware for the majority of commercial operations, it’s essentially still consumer-focused. Providing the deep insights and flexible tools required for enterprise is another matter.
On the other hand, the move is a reflection of where the market is going. New commercial use cases are opening up all the time as regulations evolve, and companies large and small are realizing the potential of the technology. DJI is simply joining the dots.
The central theme of DJI’s FlightHub platform is connectivity. Disparate teams can work together in one place in real time. For any business operating multiple drones, the software provides a centralized view of all missions to enable collaboration between pilots and offsite teams.
“As commercial use of drone technology increases each day, businesses need a solution that lets them scale their operations quickly and efficiently manage their growing fleets and teams across multiple locations,” said Jan Gasparic, DJI’s head of enterprise partnerships.
“FlightHub is the first solution of its kind that empowers businesses to manage their drone operations in one place, securely, within seconds and from remote locations.”
Informed decision making
FlightHub offers businesses two separate views of drone operations, Map View and Real-Time View. Both display telemetry, camera and sensor data.
Map View provides offsite teams with a live, map-based overview of operations. It’s been designed to help with the coordination of simultaneous flights and multiple teams. It also offers guidance regarding regulations and no-fly zones from DJI’s Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) geofencing system.
Real-Time View is more immersive and helps pilots collaborate with engineers and experts on the ground. It offers live video feeds from up to four onsite drones to enable unique workflows and quick decision making.
Prioritizing data security
The past few months have been torrid for DJI from a PR and security standpoint. Hackers continue to evade the company’s GEO system in order to fly without restriction; both the US and the Australian militaries have grounded DJI aircraft over ‘cyber vulnerabilities’; a bug bounty program that was promised as a way to get security experts onside is yet to materialize.
With that in mind, the news that FlightHub’s web-based management tools will sync flight logs and statistics to secure US servers makes a lot of sense.
According to a statement from DJI, “FlightHub data management operations have been pre-assessed in accordance with SOC2 AICPA standards. Future versions of FlightHub will have the option to integrate with private clouds for organizations that demand the highest level of data security.”
Out in the field
DJI has tested FlightHub with US railway provider BNSF, which uses drones to carry out maintenance inspections of tracks from above.
“When we first started the drone program at BNSF, we had to develop a lot of processes from scratch, including the tasks of manually logging flights and conducting checks to ensure each team out on the field was following maintenance instructions at all times,” said Nick Dryer, UAS field ops manager at BNSF.
“FlightHub has made our program significantly easier to manage by providing a full view of real-time operations and internal communications in one platform. This solution has given us the opportunity to further expand the use of this new technology in an old industry.”