As Seen in Inside Unmanned Systems:
With the recent GeoCue acquisition, mdGroup, the parent company of Microdrones, can now offer high-quality LiDAR sensors and data to a broader market of professional surveyors.
GeoCue’s TrueView LiDAR payloads and LP360 point cloud data processing software make that possible, giving mdGroup more options to offer surveyors; they can pair any drone platform they want with the GeoCue payload and LP360 software.
GeoCue joins mdGroup as another portfolio company focused on the aerial surveying industry, opening up the addressable market and strengthening the company’s position. With GeoCue solutions addressing different surveyor needs, the acquisition makes mdGroup a true one-stop shop for professional surveyors deploying drones, as well as manned aircraft, for data collection.
Adding LP360 software as a post-processing option makes it possible for mdGroup to meet the demand for more drone-enabled precision deliverables, such as classified and colorized point clouds, volume calculation, and contour maps, mdGroup CEO Vivien Heriard-Dubreuil said.
“For me, the future is the software, adding more value to the data that we collect with our hardware”¦ that may come three ways”¦ with the fully integrated Microdrones solution, or the drone and the payload, or only the software,” Heriard-Dubreuil said. “At the end, we produce the georeferenced .LAS file, but with LP360, we also produce the deliverable. So, there’s no need for third-party software. That’s where the real value will come.”
The acquisition won’t yield any visible changes for GeoCue or Microdrones customers; both companies will continue to operate independently. The move consolidates mdGroup’s presence in the U.S., where GeoCue does most of its business and offers the opportunity for GeoCue products to enter the European market.
“Both companies will continue to serve customers as they have come to trust and expect,” mdGroup COO Frank Darmayan said. “They can choose Microdrones fully-integrated survey equipment and the mdInfinity cloud data processing platform or GeoCue LiDAR payloads and EVO/LP360 data processing desktop software.”
Expanding mdGroup’s aerial surveying reach
Offering the LP360 software opens up new user segments for mdGroup, Heriard-Dubreuil said. He described the German-engineered Microdrones systems as premium drones, but that level of unmanned aircraft isn’t appropriate for every user. Adding GeoCue to the portfolio helps the company reach surveyors who need high-quality sensors and software, but perhaps already have a preference for another brand of UAS.
Surveyors who start with a drone agnostic GeoCue sensor are already familiar with the LP360 software and workflow when they’re ready to upgrade, Heriard-Dubreuil said. They know the software is compatible with everything else they’re using. Their people are processing it and they’re trained on it, giving mdGroup “the opportunity to upgrade them.”
“You have some applications where the customer does not need the complete system,” Heriard-Dubreuil said. “These customers don’t need that collection piece. But you have a segregation in the markets, and with the software offering, we cover everything. With the hardware, we’re a little bit more limited because we’re more for the high-end guys. But that’s really the idea, to expand our addressable market. We’re not forcing them to purchase the hardware. That’s the beauty of it.”
It’s all about improving the data
As a company, Microdrones always has been focused on the data. The end-to-end solutions they offer give users everything they need to produce high-quality deliverables from the data they collect. The TrueView sensors and LP360 software add another layer to that, allowing for a lower cost to entry while still meeting the survey-grade standard most surveyors need.
While the accuracy of the data collected won’t improve after it’s been processed with the software, Heriard-Dubreuil said, the resolution will. The post-processing software adjusts resolution so that it meets and even exceeds survey-grade requirements.
“For example,” Heriard-Dubreuil said, “if you map one-foot contours, you don’t need that many points. So that won’t change. The level of quality must be there. But on the resolution, we need to improve it on the back end.”
Many surveyors can’t handle all the processing required to get the resolution they need from their data, Heriard-Dubreuil said, because they don’t have the capacity on their computer. Now, mdGroup can provide that with the GeoCue software.
All Microdrones solutions are integrated with mdInfinity software, mainly a cloud platform, for post-processing. Adding the desktop-based LP360 represents a huge opportunity, Heriard-Dubreuil said, and “combines the best of both worlds.”
“It’s really good to have desktop software because you don’t need to download all your data,” he said. “You have everything on your workstation. But to share and to present or store, you need the cloud piece. Having both is the perfect combination.”
While survey-grade accuracy is what most professional surveyors require, there are situations where that isn’t enough, Heriard-Dubreuil said. mdGroup’s solutions can go beyond survey grade, for more robust datasets.
“It’s when you need to extract features because there the level of noise really makes the difference,” Heriard-Dubreuil said. “You’re trying to see a curve or just the noise of the sensor. It’s real tough. Sometimes you are missing the lines of the power lines. So, it’s really when you try to see small things that it makes a difference.”
These more sophisticated datasets become important when customers are trying to create photo-realistic 3D environments through things like 3D modeling and digital twins. Critical infrastructure, construction, and oil and gas are among the verticals that may require data that goes beyond the survey-grade standard, Heriard-Dubreuil said.
“Survey grade is the first level,” Heriard-Dubreuil said. “Right now, you have two worlds. You have the buildings and the beams. You have a lot of examples of people scanning inside the building and where we focus is the outside. We are providing a one-stop shop for the outside”¦ a user can upgrade over time and expand their capabilities.”