Beyond Drone Data: Optelos on How Digital Twins and Immersive Data Visualizations are Transforming Business
Optelos is a respected name in the drone industry: but drones have never been their only focus. The company understood “it’s not the drone, it’s the data,” long before that phrase became a theme in the commercial drone industry.
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Optelos is a visual inspection data management and AI analytics platform, developed from the founders’ years of research and experience in data analytics and enterprise data management. Designed from the outset to deliver business tools, Optelos has naturally evolved from managing the vast quantities of data produced by drone missions to developing digital twins, exact visual models of assets in the field – and moving beyond Digital Twins to an immersive visual understanding of an asset or a portfolio.
DRONELIFE spoke with Optelos VP of Operations Neil Inman about Digital Twins – rapidly becoming an industry standard for asset inspections – data management, and why he sees industry finally beginning to scale their drone inspection programs.
Operational improvement is the name of the game, Inman says. In his view, for the industry to reach maturity, providers will need to ensure that they’ve addressed 3 points: capture and utilization of relevant data, intelligent interpretation of those data sources, and integration with the wide variety of systems already entrenched in large enterprise organizations to integrate this valuable data into existing workflows.
Digital Twins are highly detailed and accurate 3D representations of physical assets, typically in the form of what are called 3D point clouds and 3D mesh models of physical assets: things like oil and gas equipment, telecom towers, or wind turbines. These types of Digital Twins are a relatively new technology, made possible as drones have made gathering the aerial data from all sides required to create digital twins easier and less expensive.
Dramatic improvements in drone technology and modeling software over the last several years have resulted in highly accurate Digital Twins that can be used for a wide range of inspections, to provide precise measurements, put into CAD or BIM, and more.
“Before drones came along, industries were using engineers to do calculations and taking pictures,” says Inman. “Then customers used drones: but in the early days, the quality and accuracy of models were often unreliable. Now, as the quality has become consistent, Digital Twins are a game changer for enterprise customers – customers are now realizing that the ROI, and the potential ROI, is vast.”
Drones are an important tool for data capture, but “At the end of the day, customers don’t really care about drones,” says Inman. “They care about their workflows and processes. At Optelos, we use data from UAV, ground robots, IoT sensors and other data sources to deliver those process improvements – in the end, we don’t necessarily care about drones either, it’s about the data.”
Starting from the End: What Customers Do with the Data
Digital Twins are a current catchphrase, but Inman says that Digital Twins are only the starting point for an immersive visual understanding of an asset.
“Digital Twins are just the beginning. The industry has gone a lot further than that,” Inman explains. “The model is the base where you reference all available data. A Digital Twin can provide basic things like measurements and volumes, but then you layer on additional information.
“A Digital Twin represents the external properties of an asset, but how do you understand the internal? With Optelos, you can click on any area of the model and get more information. Sewer plants may have a submersible robot to monitor the underwater environment, and that live stream can be added to the Digital Twin. Reports, more images, comparisons: there are so many options, and when you start layering in that intelligence, you really see the value.”
Understanding one asset is useful: but Inman says that the strongest ROI comes from the dashboards and reports that put it all together and provide a portfolio-wide perspective. “This is where you get real value, and this is what is driving adoption. When customers have all that information at their fingertips, they can immediately gather better insights and make better decisions from their data.”
Cutting Costs, Saving Time
Dashboards and reports are useful – they save time and allow business stakeholders to make better decisions. But Optelos’ sees the most tangible benefit and the highest ROI in connecting to existing systems in an enterprise workflow. AI-powered inspection can point out maintenance needs, but until that maintenance request is processed, the workflow isn’t completed. “Whether that’s dispatch, or ticketing, or whatever – when you connect to another system, now you can do something with that data,” Inman points out.
That’s how customers save time and money – and that’s the ultimate goal for Digital Twin technology.
“For us, the data is just a start,” says Inman. “We’re agnostic to the workflow or the industry. It’s all about figuring out the operational improvement that the customer needs to achieve and getting them there.”
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Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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