Insight on Business

November 2015

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w w w . i n s i g h t o n b u s i n e s s . c o m N o v e m b e r 2 0 15 • I NSIGH T | 33 B y S e a n P. J o h n s o n T he whirring of a drone rising into the sky makes a distinct buzzing noise. For Benjamin Gill, it's a buzz of opportunity. Gill is preparing to launch a new company in January that will provide drone services to companies in Northeast Wisconsin and beyond. As federal regulators relax and rewrite the rules regarding the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, early adapters to the technology will be poised to quickly tap what many experts predict will be a rapidly ascending, billion dollar market of aerial services. "As a technology solution, it just allows a company to do so many things in a safer, faster and more accurate way," says Gill. "Having the right information is critical to making big dollar decisions." For example, a quarry operator can better deploy equipment and manpower by using detailed survey information. Until recently, obtaining that information meant commissioning a survey crew to spend weeks making detailed maps. Now, a drone with the proper cameras and topological soware can turn it around in less than 20 minutes of flight time, plus several hours of computer rendering. "We can deliver it in a day and be accurate to the centimeter," Gill says. Gill and his business partner, Andy Mills, plan to formally launch the drone services company eta UAV Rise of the drones Early adapters flying high in a burgeoning market in January. In the meantime, they have been working on securing the equipment and contacts necessary for a successful launch, including licensed pilots and procedures that will keep them in compliance with nebulous and detailed regulations published by the Federal Aviation Administration. eta UAV's initial services are targeted to large scale operations such as providing 3D GPS information, detailed topological mapping and thermal imaging that can be used in industries such as quarries or precision farming. It's a business that's been fighting to break free of regulatory shackles for several years, and appears to finally be gaining momentum as federal regulators have relaxed the current restrictions while working toward a new set of comprehensive guidelines for the use of UAVs. At present, commercial UAV operation is technically banned by FAA regulation. But as the demand for commercial drone services has grown and industry groups have applied pressure, the agency relented and last year began issuing exemptions to the current regulations, known as Section 333. In March, the rules were further relaxed. It's been a welcome new tool for Image Studios, which for 50 years has worked to create imagery that supports a portfolio of some of the nation's most well-known companies. Image Studios received its 333 Exemption this past August, joining just a handful of Wisconsin companies that have been granted the authorization. "We are seeing a lot of interest in the technology, that's for sure," says Donna Gehl, president of Image Studios. "We are always looking to provide a unique perspective, and this gives us the ability to provide that at a lot less cost." Prior to using UAVs, gaining an aerial perspective I N S I G H T O N T E C H N O LO G Y P H O T O B Y I M A G E S T U D I O S Image Studios recently captured aerial photos of Whistling Straits for Kohler Co. using a drone. [continued ] »

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