General Electric (GE) is entering into the commercial drone market space through a partnership with Microdrones, an aerial mapping technology company with German roots. And in addition to inheriting the existing Microdrones technology portfolio, GE is also announcing the launch of a new long-range LiDAR drone, mdLiDAR1000LR.
The Microdrones facility in Siegen, Germany, will manufacture the GE drone line. The birds, meanwhile, will be available for sale around the world.
To be clear, this is not GE’s first tryst with drones. In 2018, the company launched AiRXOS, a subsidiary specializing in unmanned traffic management. However, AiRXOS was shut down earlier this year after the subsidiary encountered significant financial challenges in 2020 due to COVID-19.
So, this time, GE is not going at it alone. It is partnering with an organization that has been making drones since 2005, and is known for its LiDAR technology products. And to show its commitment to the cause, GE is also investing in Microdrones’ parent company, mdGroup.
GE Licensing senior managing director Thomas Buccellato says:
The GE industrial drone line is a powerful extension and fit for the GE brand worldwide. We can provide field-proven inspection, surveying, and geomatics technology that complements our key industrial segments. This is just the beginning of something very promising as we work with Microdrones to scale this up and offer a very powerful and trusted drone surveying solution to our industrial customers worldwide.
The strategy is to deploy Microdrones equipment as an essential tool to create and maintain digital twins, digital terrain models, maps, and other geospatial products.
With the mdLiDAR1000LR especially, GE and Microdrones want to tap into sectors like land surveying and construction. Other areas of interest would be precision agriculture, mining, power line inspection, and forestry management.
A LiDAR drone with the GE stamp of approval
According to Frank Darmayan, COO, Microdrones, the mdLiDAR1000LR increases the distance from which details can be captured. He tells:
It can capture powerline details at 75m for distribution and 90m for transmission. This effectively doubles the range of our mdLiDAR1000HR system. Flying at 70m from the powerlines, at 8m/s, allows for efficient location of the powerlines with roughly 10 points per linear meter and capturing great detail of the towers. The mdLiDAR1000LR is also a great tool for scanning large mines and measuring stockpile volumes. Flying at 100m AGL with 20% sidelap, the LR can cover over 1.2 square kilometers in a 30-minute flight, capturing a point density of 150 points per square meter.
Also noteworthy is the fact that each LiDAR channel of the drone is boresight calibrated. This improves the data consistency and provides a reduced Standard Measurement Uncertainty. You can find out more here.