The Pittsburgh startup and its high-flying, autonomous drones will assist Blairsville-based Bentley Development on a large surface mining project in Western Pennsylvania.
Identified Technologies will lease its smart drone mapping system – the Boomerang – to the company for 3-D mapping and comprehensive data analysis of a 180-acre mining site.
The Bentley project, announced Monday, is one of the startup’s largest assignments to date based on the acreage involved, says Dick Zhang, CEO of Identified Technologies.
Bentley Development performs mining operations, landfill construction and commercial site development. The firm is currently working on a surface mining operation in Somerset County in Pennsylvania.
Bentley typically gets paid based on the amount of dirt it moves. Identified will assist in verifying this quantity, according to Phil Shumaker, vice president of operations at Bentley.
Many companies typically use GPS or traditional airplanes or helicopters, which is expensive, explains Zhang. Older methods record data every six months, or once a year, and there’s a 12-week waiting period for results, which is inefficient and costly.
“Drone mapping blows our GPS away in terms of speed and data accuracy,” Shumaker said in a prepared statement. “It also saves our survey team a lot of time. In the past, it could take three to four weeks to capture and analyze the progress using traditional methods.”
“Clients often save between 70 to 90 percent on their projects,” Zhang said. “When you factor in avoided personnel injuries and early detection of problems, the value per job is often in the millions of dollars.”
So just how does a drone flying overhead calculate the amount of dirt excavated on the ground with a high degree of accuracy?
“It’s photogrammetry and trigonometry on steroids,” Zhang said.
The drone takes hundreds of 3-D pictures and relays them to Identified’s office. The software then reviews the images and generates 10 million to 20 million data points.
“Every new relationship is very exciting for us,” Zhang said. “We are now getting very good at understanding the most challenging aspects of the industry. Guys like Phil struggle with how to measure quantities and track profitability. Having a company like his is a great deal for us.”