How New Mexico companies use drones to cut costs and increase efficiencyHumans have long been the go-to source of plotting land for things like construction sites. But drone technology is quickly changing that.

Charles Grimm, president of Albuquerque-based companies Outdoor Robotics and Grimmster Technologies, said one use for drones reigns supreme.

“Essentially mapping is … really where most of the R.O.I. [return on investment] is with drones,” Grimm said.

Other areas, he said, such as real estate videography, are less fruitful.

His firms encompass the entire drone mapping process, with Outdoor Robotics gathering the data and Grimmster Technologies processing it.

The bulk of Grimm’s business comes from a variety of industries, from mining to aerospace to land management.

“It’s a tool to be used by industries to save money,” Grimm said.

In the case of mining, he said the traditional method of using helicopters for surveying can cost up to $3,000 per hour: “We can do that for a fraction of the price.”

Solar energy is another industry where drones are taking flight. Albuquerque-based solar energy company Affordable Solar’s Operations and Safety Manager Blake Richards is the company’s in-house drone operator. Affordable Solar is the largest solar energy company in New Mexico with $39 million in revenue in the state, according to our List of largest solar and renewable energy companies.

“It allows me to perform quick topographical models of the sites,” Richards said.

The traditional method of using human surveyors has a turnaround time of between one and two weeks, versus a 72-hour turnaround time when using his DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone, according to Richards. Cost savings are another benefit.

“You’re paying basically three costs,” Richards said.

These include the cost of the drone itself, automation software that controls the flight path and paying a civil engineer to extract the data and build a virtual model. Overall, this process costs around $3,000 per site. Standard surveying companies can cost between $6,000 and $24,000, according to Richards.

Another area of improvement is data processing, which is done post-flight. That is also changing and becoming more efficient.

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