Earth Networks, the leading provider of weather intelligence solutions, wants to automate decisions involving the weather – like whether or not to fly. Today at InterDrone, EarthNetworks introduced Sferic DroneFlight – a new advanced predictive weather offering for drone flights.
“As organizations move towards deploying drones for commercial applications ranging from delivery of goods to consumers to performing infrastructure inspections, one of the most significant challenges to emerge is the need for advanced weather data,” says the company. “Wind speed and direction data are particularly critical in the 10-400 foot low-altitude range where commercial drones operate – a range too high for traditional surface-level wind data to be used exclusively and too low for wind data utilized by airlines operating at much higher altitudes.”
Sferic DroneFlight delivers hyperlocal wind forecasts for any latitude and longitude in the world. It’s a significant benefit for enterprise drone companies in a wide range of verticals. “It’s about flight planning and risk reduction,” says EarthNetworks’ CMO Anuj Agrawal. “The forecast, which is available at 10-meter altitude increments and hourly intervals for out to 6 days, lets enterprise customers plan flights in advance. If you’re working on an infrastructure project like a bridge inspection, its important to know that you won’t have to close it down for multiple days due to a weather delay.”
“But Sferic is also important for in-flight decisions,” explains Agrawal. “How do you know if it’s better to fly at 300 feet or 350 feet that day? How long will your battery last taking temperature into consideration?”
Weather is often an afterthought in the flight planning process, due to a lack of specialized data. Operators routinely plan for multiple flights in case of weather issues, wasting time and resources. But Sferic has an impressive list of functions to improve the process:
- Optimize drone mission timing – wind forecasting is provided for hourly time intervals, allowing drone missions to be planned for specific days and times to determine optimal flying conditions for capturing high-resolution imagery.
- Maximize drone flight duration – With wind speed and direction forecasting, flight paths and elevation can be defined to accommodate battery life and complete missions within a drone’s operating capacity.
- Extend geo-fencing for severe weather – Drone missions require an ability to forecast weather with hyperlocal precision to determine where severe weather is occurring so drones can be routed accordingly or grounded until the weather clears.
- Assess weather conditions in non-connected areas – For missions in remote areas with limited connectivity, utilizing the 6-day hourly forecast provides operators with weather information while traveling to mission sites and for planned mission times.
- Analyze the impact of weather – combining Sferic DroneFlight with historical weather datasets, companies can integrate weather information with captured imagery to understand the causes of deterioration or damage.
In International markets where weather intelligence such as radar is often unavailable, Sferic DroneFlight complements Earth Networks Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts, a predictive convective storm algorithm powered by the company’s hyperlocal early warning networks of 10,000 weather sensors and 1,500 lightning sensors covering 90 countries. Drone operators around the world can utilize both solutions together to identify potential disruptive weather conditions such as high winds, hail, and precipitation.
“As the drone market and regulatory environment continue to evolve, weather intelligence will be a key technology to enable longer and beyond line of sight missions,” says Agrawal. “We look forward to working with industry partners to bring continued innovation to market.”
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 a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.