Drone Leader DJI Is Manufacturing 1,000 Industrial Drones for a Construction Company

Drone builder DJI is teaming up with US startup Skycatch to fill a massive order from Japanese construction giant Komatsu of 1,000 construction drone units.

Major drone builder DJI is branching beyond their famous consumer products and into the commercial space. They're custom-building 1,000 units based on the popular autonomous quadcopter the Matrice 100 and combining it with machine vision software from US startup Skycatch. All 1,000 units have been bought by Japanese construction giant Komatsu. 

Drone Leader DJI Is Manufacturing 1,000 Industrial Drones for a Construction Company
Source: Skycatch

The 1,000 drones are called the Skycatch Explore1. The drones produce maps that are accurate up to five centimeters. It can also help with inventory and stockpiling. However, Komatsu will be using data produced by the drones to control its fleet of robotic construction technology which the company is still developing. 

"Conducting a site survey using a drone used to take hours. However, by implementing Explore1, users can carry out surveying quickly and easily. Now it is possible to perform drone surveying every day. Taking off, landing and flight route setting are all automated. Ground Control Points (GCPs) are no longer needed. 3D data is immediately generated and an entire construction site can be visually checked with the 3D map. The Explore1 is a true game changer for the construction site," said Chikashi Shike, Executive Office of Smart Construction Division at Komatsu.

The Explore1 also comes with a base that processes the image without needing an internet connection. It's perfect for builders who can't guarantee reliable internet on site. 

"Being the first company to integrate into DJI's manufacturing process will deliver incredible value to our customers worldwide," said Christian Sanz, CEO at Skycatch. "By combining DJI's mastery of hardware manufacturing and aerial technology with Skycatch's data processing and customer expertise, we've created the most powerful and comprehensive solution for enterprise customers everywhere."

Skycatch has already used its technology in thousands of construction jobs around the world -- including future Disney theme parks, data center sites for Facebook, and one very large and popular 'unnamed company' and build in Cupertino, California. 

“You can imagine who I’m talking about,” said Sanz in an interview with the Verge. “We’ve been flying there every day, multiple times a day... We’re now helping out with the landscaping work.”

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While both Skycatch and DJI have been producing their respective technology for years, the companies are excited to collaborate on such a massive project. 

"The Explore1 demonstrates DJI's strategy to provide customers with the most powerful and reliable drone platforms on the market that can be tailored to the needs of any industry," said Jan Gasparic, Head of Enterprise Partnerships at DJI. "Our close collaboration with Skycatch on this exciting program has resulted in a best-in-class solution of software and hardware for aerial surveying that truly changes the game for both our customers and the commercial drone industry."

Drone Leader DJI Is Manufacturing 1,000 Industrial Drones for a Construction Company
Source: Skycatch

Skycatch has been working on the Explore1 since 2017, but Sanz said the DJI partnership could radically hasten the pace at which commercial drones are becoming more popular. 

“This is an industry that’s been moving at a slow pace, and this order is a huge signal that things are speeding up,” said Sanz. “Automation in construction is no longer something to look out for, four or five years in the future. When you go to a job site you should expect to see robots on the ground.”