Case Study. How a successful drone services company saves 3 – 4 days and significant personnel time to deliver customer insights: an Interview with Rusty Batey, CEO and Founder, of Zulu Marine and Aerial based in Savannah, GA.
Drone data management has become a hot topic in the industry – after all, the value drones offer is in the huge amount of data that they generate. Many drone services companies, however, can’t see how these systems fit into their existing workflow. As Georgia-based Zulu Discovery explains, the Optelos system doesn’t just fit in – it streamlines the workflow, saving time and money and increasing the services offered to their customers.
Zulu Discovery is a full service data services company – providing aerial, ground, and marine services. A government contractor providing disaster relief, inspection, and underwater exploration services Zulu generates vast quantities of data for their customers – depending upon the project, from 30 MB to 150 GB.
How do they manage and deliver that data in the most valuable form to clients? Zulu now uses the Optelos Drone Data Management platform, a sophisticated visual data management and AI Analytics solution. Prior to using Optelos, “We were DropBox junkies,” says Batey. “That could be a nightmare if the customer did not have enough space on their DropBox account to receive our deliverables… we had files everywhere and it just wasn’t very efficient. We used many different mediums but we could never find that single pane of glass that allowed us to be carefree & flexible as we are now.”
Here’s how Zulu has partnered with Optelos to grow their business.
It’s All About the Deliverable
Zulu focuses on providing value for their customers. They make sure that the service they supply exactly matches with the needs of the customer. “I believe that we are a valuable service because we partner with professionals,” says Rusty Batey. “We didn’t buy a drone and all of sudden think we were an inspection company or a surveying company – we bought drones, hired talented people, and then partnered with professional companies to add value and efficiencies to THEIR businesses.”
“Over time, we have found ways to really add value to our own brand as well. That comes from professionalism and understanding that it’s the deliverable that customers are looking for,” says Batey. “Optelos has helped us to deliver in a way that is easy and unique for our customers.”
The data is the deliverable. Zulu generally gathers imagery which allows for the creation of Orthomosaics, Panoramic stills, 4K/HD video, high resolution inspection stills, and measurable 3D models. “We were using multiple portals for different data types –some for storing data, and some for viewing,” says Batey. “Having all of our data in one place and being able to view it is crucial for the client experience.”
Drone data management has evolved over the last few years, Batey says – and customer expectations have changed too. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement and a lot of change,” he comments. “Being able to manipulate in the cloud direct from a browser, rather than constant downloading and uploading is a big advantage. It used to be just a set of pictures that was delivered to the client. Now its organized actionable data that’s turned around quickly.”
Zulu is able to provide different types – and more – data to their customers using Optelos. “For example, we can now provide orthomosaics in a much easier viewing platform that allows these orthos to be overlaid against each other and rolled back, utilizing a variety of comparison methods,” Batey explains. “Optelos’ OrthoCompare™ feature is one of our favorite things to show off to our customers.”
The Time Savings – on Both Sides
Using a sophisticated data management system saves Zulu significant time. “Prior to Optelos ,the data management piece was cumbersome and could take several days [3-4 days] to fully complete.” says Batey. “We had to manually compile folders, remember how images needed to be tagged, and then have to carefully convey that information to our clients. This was very time consuming and costly.”
“Now, our project data is typically uploaded and ready for customer viewing within 24 hours on very large projects – but usually much less. The Optelos platform does all the hard work so we can concentrate on other aspects of our business. It’s been a game changer for us in terms of our ability to deliver beautiful results to our clients in a fraction of the time.”
There’s a time savings for the customer, too, says Batey. “The client can access the data more quickly, and also sort through it more quickly using the FlyView™ feature in Optelos. For example, previously the client would have to download an ortho which are often hundreds of MBs to Gigs in size. Then they have to manually bring it into another software to view, and of course they have to try to match that up to the images and other notes,” he explains. “Now, without any prior knowledge of what issues are found, clients can pull it up in FlyView , see the targeted insight image overlays, add annotations, and take measurements right from there.”
More Value, More Features
Batey points out that with a precise system of management, customers feel more comfortable allowing more stakeholders to use the data – so they get more value. “Different stakeholders have different needs,” he says. “We label the folders based on the stakeholder’s roles and then populate those folders with data that is unique to each group.”
“Our Customers love the idea of sharing EXACTLY what’s needed to each party. We’ve been working with a large general contractor that’s doing a lot of work in the Savannah area. At least once a week, they’re asking us to grant access to another employee or site owner.”
In addition, Zulu plans to utilize new features as they’re introduced on the Optelos platform. “We are looking forward to using their new 3D mesh viewer and reports, that could provide even more value to our clients,” he says. “In addition, we have been trialing Optelos’ new Panorama feature and can’t wait to see that in full production. We are also excited about the advancement and maturity of their AI feature.”
Optelos’ rapid development, diverse tool set, and introduction of new features is a valuable asset for Zulu, who offers a wide variety of services. “Our company was born in disaster response. We have used UAVs to map marine debris after hurricanes… Another instance is for environmental remediation support. In the event of a spill, we are typically the first team onsite to provide aerial support and real-time situational awareness,” says Batey. “We also partner with a very large TIA Inspection company for the cell tower industry. We are working with Optelos now to enhance solutions for those verticals.”
“We are a very diverse company, serving Air, Land, and Marine environments. Our depth of knowledge through multiple verticals has proved invaluable, especially when disasters affect things ranging from vertical to underwater assets. We have even used Optelos’ Drone Work Advisor™ to display sonar data. This is another great use for the ortho-compare tool.”
Beyond big improvements to their workflow and customer delivery, Zulu says that Optelos shares their company values – making the partnership successful on all fronts. “This has been extremely important to us,” says Batey. “I’ve had many personal calls with staff at Optelos. They are always looking to help turn issues into opportunities. One software can’t solve every issue, but they really try to say yes, or ‘lets see how we can figure this out.’”
“Their ‘Can-Do’ attitude has been refreshing to say the least.”
Batey says that attitude and service orientation is critical in a customer partnership. “It’s everything,” he comments. “I heard once that you can’t make everyone happy… I don’t believe that. I believe that sometimes you just have to be willing to lose money for the greater good.”
“I’ve never gone wrong yet putting a little extra skin in the game – Optelos has confirmed that belief.”
About Zulu Marine and Aerial
Zulu provides a underwater, land and aerial Inspection, marine transport and support, environmental response, aerial 3D and location mapping services. Zulu is based in Savannah, GA.
For more information visit www.zuludiscovery.com
Optelos is the world’s leading provider of drone visual data management and AI analytics software solutions. We help enterprises and drone service providers integrate drone-based applications into existing business workflows to turn data into actionable insights. Optelos is based in Austin, TX. For more information, visit http://www.optelos.com