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As the world's primary fuel sources, oil and natural gas are major industries in the energy industry and have a significant impact on the global economy. Demand for petroleum and petroleum products has only increased in the recent past due to global economic and population growth, as well as continual urbanization and industrialization.


The United States itself has more than 190,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines and over 2.4 million miles of natural gas pipelines. Pipeline transportation is safer, more efficient, and emits fewer GHGs than shipping by ship, truck, or rail.

The Current Challenges with Pipeline Inspections:

Pipelines are vital infrastructure for the transmission of oil and natural gas, connecting producing areas to refineries, chemical plants, home customers, and commercial demands. However, oil and natural gas are combustible and explosive substances that are typically delivered via high-temperature, high-pressure pipeline networks. Hereby, it is critical to monitor these pipelines to ensure that they are operating effectively.


However, traditional pipeline inspection methods have some issues, such as:

Use of crewed aircraft

Currently, the majority of energy companies use helicopters to monitor encroachment in potential pipeline Right-Of-Ways (ROW). Each expedition costs an average of $150,000, making more regular inspections than every six months almost impractical.

Foot Patrols

Once the aircraft confirms an encroachment, foot patrols, typically consisting of two personnel, are dispatched to these remote locations. Such manual site inspections take approximately 8 hours and cost approximately $500 merely to have a closer look and validate the threat.

conducting pipeline monitoring for oil and gas companies with manual methods
conducting pipeline monitoring for oil and gas companies with manual methods

Inability to send crew at all times

Pipelines can be hundreds of kilometers long and can be spread over vast remote locations. Sending operators to such locations can put human life at risk. Hereby, it becomes quite difficult to send inspection teams to cover such areas at all times. 

Time-consuming method

Traveling from one asset to another is frequently difficult. Operators may need to drive lengthy miles along gravel or dirt roads to visit several inspection sites. The distance and hard terrain may need a significant amount of time.

Drone program can help in conducting inspection for oil and gas companies without human intervention

How can Drones with BVLOS Capabilities Help Oil and Gas Companies Secure Pipelines 

Ease of travel between assets

Drone program can help in conducting inspection for oil and gas companies without human intervention
Drone program can help in conducting inspection for oil and gas companies without human intervention

Traveling between assets during inspection operations might become challenging because these pipes can span thousands of meters. The team may be required to travel long distances and to distant regions where there is no adequate road infrastructure.

Operators must travel to the sites, assess the asset, review their data, and then drive to another asset. Furthermore, they must repeat the entire process until all assets have been inspected. This can take a significant amount of time which can be costly for an industry like oil and gas.

However, drones can travel vast distances and reach difficult-to-access locations. Additionally, using drone-in-a-box systems, eliminate the need for continual re-launching, packing, and landing of drones which is majorly faced in manual-led VLOS operations.

Increase worker safety

Oftentimes, assets are located on high terrains or difficult-to-reach locations. Operators may need to set up substantial scaffolding or dangle from ropes to inspect this equipment. Any mistake here can result in severe consequences. Despite the industry's strict regulations and safety standards, health and safety concerns persist. A BVLOS operation eliminates the operator's danger by allowing them to undertake the flight mission from any remote location.

Simplify early detection of pipeline leaks

Example of leak in the gas pipeline is affecting the surrounding environment
Example of leak in the gas pipeline is affecting the surrounding environment

Drones are increasingly being used in the oil and gas industry for early detection of pipeline leaks. By using advanced drone technology including thermal cameras and visual or infrared cameras, these drones help the operators to identify gas leaks in storage tanks and pipelines with greater accuracy and efficiency than traditional methods.

These drones can easily access hard-to-reach areas and capture high-quality photos and videos of the pipelines and storage tanks. These data can be helpful to conduct image analytics for accurate and early detection of potential leaks or damage.

This allows operators to respond quickly and effectively to potential pipeline failure, minimizing the impact on the environment and reducing the risk of accidents. The use of drones also reduces the potential for human error, as operators can monitor the pipelines remotely, without the need for physical inspections.

Reduce heavy costs

Hiring a pilot and a helicopter, for example, can cost thousands of dollars. Regular inspections may become prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Autonomous drone missions can minimize such costs while also minimizing human dependency.

Utilize readymade data and analytics via automated procedures

A human-led operation requires the operator to drive to the location and visually inspect the asset. Via autonomous operations, drone operators can run pre-planned drone flights and augment the inspection process. The drone will follow its routine, capture and store data which can be further assessed for detailed inspection as per need.

This enables the operator to quantify their assessment with turnkey data and analytics delivered via automated workflows. This simplifies the entire process and backs it up with data, which greatly aids decision-making. 

Ability to scale operations

While examining pipelines spanning thousands of kilometers, it becomes nearly impossible to conduct manual operations consistently. However, autonomous drones can be scaled up and deployed readily to fit the business's needs as they can be programmed to conduct the desired tasks. 

How FlytNow is Enabling BVLOS Operations

BVLOS operations in pipeline inspection
BVLOS operations in pipeline inspection

FlytNow is a cloud-based solution that enables the deployment and management of drones in just a few clicks, allowing you to manage your drone operations via a single web-based dashboard for a seamless experience. It helps you lower travel costs, reduce operation rounds, and increase productivity by saving travel time. It is integrated with ready-to-use intelligent modules, like collision avoidance, and precision landing, and integration with drone-in-a-box systems, which further helps you shorten your time to market.

The FlytNow software solution enables project managers to schedule pre-planned or on-demand flights from a command center located miles away from the base station. The drone takes off from the drone nest autonomously, flies its mission, captures real-time videos and images, and uploads them to the cloud.

Store images and videos on cloud and Identify leaks on pipelines with FlytNow's solution
Store images and videos on cloud and Identify leaks on pipelines with FlytNow's solution

Following the flight, the drone returns to the docking station for battery swapping and storage. These stations can charge up to four batteries simultaneously and swap out the existing battery in less than 90 seconds, ensuring minimal downtime. Furthermore, because it is lightweight, it can easily fit on the back of a pickup truck and be moved from one location to another if necessary.

3rd party integrations in FlytNow, such as Casia G system by Iris Automation for detection and avoidance of cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft, Altitude Angel for airspace awareness, and others, assist to increase capabilities for greater insights and seamless BVLOS operations.


Leveraging Nested Drone Systems (NDS)

How nested drone system helping in pipeline inspection
How nested drone system helping in pipeline inspection

The Nested Drone Systems (NDS) can significantly improve the data collection process and transform how pipelines are inspected. It lets the drone operator conduct long-duration flights without the need to return the drone to the command center to recharge or swap the battery. With the nested drone system, energy companies would be able to quickly scale up, undergo a digital transformation, run safely, and boost productivity.

Nitin Gupta, Founder & CEO of FlytBase, Inc. concludes by stating that “Nested Drone Solutions are rapidly revolutionizing the way repeatable, high-frequency missions are conducted across use-cases. Maintenance of pipelines, spread over thousands of miles, is a great application of this technology with a significant ROI for the end-user.

FAQs

1) How can drones improve the safety of inspections on oil and gas pipelines?

Drones can play a vital role in improving the safety of inspections in the oil and gas industry. With their ability to fly closer to the ground, drones can provide high-resolution aerial data through the use of visual or infrared cameras. This allows for more precise and thorough inspections of pipelines, particularly in hard-to-reach areas. 

By using drones, workers can avoid the potential dangers of inspecting pipelines on foot, such as exposure to crude oil leaks. Additionally, the use of drones allows for earlier detection of leaks, which can prevent potential disasters and safeguard the environment.

2) What are the benefits of using drones for pipeline inspections?

Drones provide several benefits for pipeline inspections, including accuracy and improved technologies. Using drones to detect leaks and identify potential issues can save costs and equipment compared to traditional inspection methods. Drones can also access dangerous terrain and provide quick emergency response. 

In addition, using drones for regular inspection can improve worker safety by avoiding the need for workers to enter hazardous areas. Visual or infrared cameras on drones can monitor pipelines and identify potential issues, whether it be for gas or oil pipelines. With better data and improved maintenance, major accidents can be avoided through the use of drones for pipeline inspections.

3) How can FlytNow help in pipeline inspection using drone-in-a-box systems?

Using FlytNow-powered drones for pipeline inspection, operators can now easily detect any leaks in the pipeline with greater accuracy and efficiency than traditional methods. It allows the team to access difficult-to-reach areas and avoid putting any human in potential danger.

Furthermore, operators can get a real-time video stream of the assets, and also capture high-quality photos and videos of the pipelines and storage tanks. This significantly helps in conducting accurate inspections and detecting potential leaks or damage.

4) What can we expect in upcoming technologies in oil and gas pipeline inspection?

New technologies will include autonomous drones that are packed with a cost-effective platform that will help in inspecting pipelines, provide insight for maintenance activities, and identify human errors. Moreover, they will be equipped with a visual or infrared camera that can detect leaks or damage on its own and inform the team immediately.

5) What are some of the best drones for pipeline inspections in the oil and gas industry?

There are several drones that are well-suited for use in pipeline inspections in the oil and gas industry. Some options include:

  1. DJI Phantom 4 RTK: This drone has a high-resolution camera and RTK GPS for precise mapping and surveying capabilities.
  2. DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual: This drone has a compact design and can fly in challenging weather conditions. It also has a dual thermal and visible light camera for identifying issues in pipelines.
  3. senseFly eBee X: This drone has a long flight time and can fly in autonomous missions to cover large areas quickly. It also has a high-resolution camera for detailed inspection.
  4. Parrot Anafi USA: This drone has a 4K HDR camera and is capable of flying in challenging environments. It is also lightweight and easy to transport.
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The threat from physical intrusion still remains one of the top concerns in both commercial and non-commercial contexts. According to a report from Markets and Markets, the video surveillance market, which includes both hardware and software, is presently at USD 45.5 billion and expected to reach USD 74.6 billion by 2025.

Over the years, there have been many advancements in optics and detection systems but limitations still exist in the conventional ways of using them. To overcome these limitations, security stakeholders are now incorporating drone technology in their operations.

In this blog, we will talk about drones and the FlytNow solution for perimeter security.

What is perimeter security?

automated perimeter security

Perimeter security is an active barrier or fortification around a defined area to prevent all forms of intrusion. Modern security systems are an amalgamation of sophisticated hardware and software that generally include cameras, motion sensors, electric fencing, high-intensity lights, and a command center to manage them all. 

Challenges with conventional security systems (without drones) for perimeter security

Below are some of the drawbacks and limitations that are inherent in a conventional security system:

  • CCTV cameras and motion detectors are stationary, thus leaving plenty of room for blind spots.
  • Patrolling requires human guards - for larger areas, this is the least efficient way of securing a premise.
  • Response to an intrusion is delayed since a human responder has to reach the location.

Benefits of using drones for perimeter security

Drones have the following advantages over a conventional security system:

  • Drones are mobile flying machines that can go to any location quickly, with HD camera(s), thus eliminating blind spots.
  • Drones can also be equipped with a thermal camera(s) which are useful during nighttime surveillance.
  • Drones can be automated for patrolling using the FlytNow cloud-connected solution and commercially available DiaB (Drone in a Box) hardware.

Note: A DiaB is box-like hardware that houses one or more drones. The hardware keeps the drone flight-ready (24x7) and also automates the launching and docking processes of a drone.

Drones automation for security

For perimeter security, drones are generally used in conjunction with Drone-in-a-Box hardware and a fleet management system that powers the command center. Other security system hardware, including CCTV cameras, motion sensors, etc. can complement the drones and can be connected to the command center, thus integrating into a complete system. In a real-life scenario, such a system might work in the following way:

Drone Command Center

  • An intrusion is detected by one of the CCTV cameras in an area under surveillance. 
  • The command center receives the alert and initiates a drone launch. 
  • A connected DiaB receives the launch request and releases a drone. 
  • The drone flies to the location where the intrusion was detected and begins streaming a live video feed. 
  • An operator maneuvers the drone to cover all blind spots.
  • On finding the intruder, the operator has the option to warn him/her about the transgression using the drone’s onboard payload such as a beacon, spotlight, speaker, etc.

To know about the kind of drones and sensors that can be used for security and surveillance operations please refer to our Drone Surveillance System: The Complete Setup Guide.

How FlytNow enabled perimeter security?

FlytNow is a cloud-based application that helps in managing and controlling a fleet of drones from a unified dashboard through automation, live data streaming and integration. In the context of perimeter security, this translates into a command center that connects drones with the traditional components of a perimeter security system.

6 Reasons to use FlytNow for perimeter security

#1 Easy Setup: FlytNow is cloud-hosted i.e. a user can access the application from any standard web browser, without any complicated server setup. Connecting the drones with the system is also easy and is done using FlytOS.

#2 Unified Dashboard: FlytNow features an advanced dashboard that shows the following:

  1. A live map showing the real-time location of all the drones. The map can be customized to show points of interest, and virtual geofence, and CCTV zones.
  2. On-screen GUI controllers and keyboard & mouse support to control a drone. This allows an operator to easily maneuver a drone to a point of interest from the command center.
  3. Multicam support that allows streaming video feeds from more than one drone.
  4. Different view modes that allow an operator to switch between RGB and thermal mode. In the thermal mode, there is the option to switch between different color pallets, allowing a user to identify warm objects against different backdrops.
  5. Pre-flight checklist which is a list of checks the system prompts an operator to perform before initiating a drone launch.

#3 Live Data Sharing: An operator can share the live video feed from a drone directly from the dashboard. The feature can be used to share video with the police or other remote stakeholders.

Using Drones for Perimeter Security

#4 Advanced Automation: Operating drones through manual control is quite an inefficient way to use drones. Instead, automation should be employed to perform activities like security patrols. FlytNow comes with an advanced mission planner that allows a user to define a path for a drone to follow and save it as a mission. The mission can be executed periodically, thus making a fleet of drones perform automated patrolling.

FlytNow for perimeter security

#5 Add-on Modules: FlytNow provides add-ons to make a drone intelligent; this includes precision landing over a computer-generated tag, obstacle detection, and object identification. These add-ons enable a drone to autonomously fly to a location, identify a threat, and return to the DiaB hardware.

#6 Drone-in-a-Box Hardware Support: The functions of DiaB hardware, in the context of perimeter security, can be broadly classified into four categories:

  1. Securely house a drone.
  2. Keeping the drone fully charged all the time.
  3. Initiate a drone launch.
  4. Successfully dock a returning drone.

Summary

In this blog, we discussed the concept of perimeter security, the limitations of conventional security set up, and how these limitations can be overcome using drones. Then we covered how drones are actually used for aerial patrols and 6 reasons why FlytNow is an ideal solution for automating drones for perimeter security.

There are plenty more reasons to use FlytNow for perimeter security that you can find out by signing for our 28 days free trial.

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Drone-on-demand refers to a service that provides a drone solution for a specified time or perpetually to accomplish certain business objectives. Such services exist because we have reached a point where there is reliable, off-the-shelf hardware and software available to create enterprise-grade drone solutions.

Enterprises who avail such services see business value in the easy availability of aerial data at a reasonable price, which was not possible a few years ago. Apart from aerial intelligence, drone-based delivery is another segment that has seen a jump in demand in recent times.

Companies that operate drones have to abide by regulatory requirements, which include airspace norms that ensure security, safety, and privacy. While there remain challenges around technology (e.g. battery life, fail-safes), this commercial drone segment is quite lucrative; according to the market research firm, Markets-and-Markets, the drone services market is estimated to reach 63.6 billion dollars by 2025 at a CAGR of 55.9% from 2019 to 2020.

Use Cases for a Drone-on-Demand Service Provider


While these services are relatively new, and people are still discovering new ways to use them, there are immediate use cases where such services are yielding tremendous commercial benefits. Some of them are listed below.

Roof Inspection of private and commercial estates: Roof inspection is a popular application of drones because aerial inspections can do the job quickly, versus manual ones, at a lower cost. Drones also bring in a level of data sophistication in the entire inspection process. With technologies like thermal and 3D imaging, a drone combined with intelligent software can automatically detect things like water damage, insulation issues, structural damages, etc.

While a property owner/caretaker may not wish to own drones and find skilled pilots to operate them, services provided by drone-on-demand companies can be a practical and economical solution.

Aerial inspection of construction sites: Inspections are common at a construction site. But with a drone, a pilot can inspect the outer facades of such structures without the need of manpower and heavy equipment. Since operations like this require skilled pilots, specialized drones, and sophisticated software, a drone-on-demand service, customized for construction applications, can make a lot of business sense.

drone on demand for construction

Emergency Response: There are several drone solution providers that are specialized in emergency response projects. For example, a US-based company called Phirst Technologies, LLC has developed a drone-based first responder system called First iZ, using FlytBase’s technology, that integrates with the CAD (computer-aided dispatch) system which powers the 911 emergency services in Tyler, Texas, USA. This system allows emergency operators to dispatch drones from a unified dashboard to gather information on an emergency situation and pass on the information to human responders who can arrive later, better informed, and prepared.

Public Safety: Drones are extensively used in operations like search and rescue, crowd control, disaster assessment, etc. In an event, Airworks 2019, DJI had announced that drones saved the lives of 279 people. There are service providers who specialize in public safety operations.

drone on demand for public safety

Industrial inspection: Drones are an important tool in the energy and utility sectors. Drones are used for inspecting refineries and gas pipelines to detect damages such as corrosion and cracks. They are also flown over wind turbines to inspect the blades. Such activities require a fair amount of specialization in aerial navigation, which is why there are sector-focused service providers for such drone applications.

Live Video Streaming From Drones

Security and surveillance: There are numerous companies that provide turnkey, drone-based security solutions for some of the following use-cases:

  • Event surveillance
  • Crown monitoring
  • Intrusion detection
  • Border security


drone security operations

Drone delivery: The concept of using drones for last-mile delivery has been around for almost a decade. Since the technology involved is challenging, service providers in this space are highly specialized and tend to focus on a specific kind of package deliveries. For example, Zipline is a company that provides an autonomous drone solution for medical deliveries.

drone delivery operations infographics

Note: Download our comprehensive guide on how to set up a drone delivery operation using Flytnow.

How FlytNow Business/Enterprise Enables a Drone-on-Demand Service


A drone-on-demand service provider brings the hardware and software together to deliver a turnkey solution for a particular use case. FlyBase, an enterprise drone automation software company, offers FlytNow to such companies. FlytNow is a cloud-based video-streaming and fleet management solution that also provides edge-level intelligence to conduct a variety of drone operations.

How FlytNow works?


FlytNow is a cloud-based application that has a dashboard, which can be accessed from a web browser. A user can connect a drone with FlytNow either using our FlytOS mobile app or the SBC cloud connect software kit. Below is an illustration that explains the setup.

drone software

Note: we have the enterprise version that supports the integration of ground-based hardware as well.

There are two versions of FlytNow that are suitable for drone solution providers: Business and Enterprise.

FlytNow Business


The Business version is an out-of-the-box solution, with the following features:

Live video streaming from the drone to the FlytNow dashboard: Video can be streamed from multiple drones on a single screen with the ability to share them with anyone via an email. This feature is useful for commercial providers who offer services related to:

  • Remote roof inspection.
  • Construction site inspection (read our case study).
  • Surveillance.
  • Delivery.
  • Emergency and public safety.
  • Industrial inspections.


With FlytNow, a drone operator can fly a drone over a roof/construction site/inspection site and live-stream the video to stakeholders sitting hundreds of miles away. Similarly, during an emergency response or a delivery operation, live streaming can be used to gather situational information.

drone software for on demand services

Video archiving: FlytNow supports the integration with an Amazon S3 instance, which is used to store incoming video feeds. The videos are automatically stored, and the feature is useful in:

  • Surveillance.
  • All forms of inspection.
  • Emergency and public safety.


All archived videos can be accessed from the FlytNow dashboard with time and date stamps.

flytnow for drones

Thermal Camera Support: FlytNow supports streaming from a thermal camera. The feature is useful in:

  • Detecting water damage during a roof inspection.
  • Spotting structural damages during a construction site inspection.
  • Spotting leakages during refinery or pipeline inspections.
  • Intruder detection during night time.
  • Identify trapped/lost victims during search and rescue operations.


Learn how FlytNow can enhance night time surveillance.

drones for search and rescue

Map annotation: FlytNow dashboard has a built-in map that shows the real-time location of drones that are online. The map also supports adding a description in way-points. The feature can be used to record information during.

  • An inspection of a roof/building.
  • Pipeline/refinery/wind-turbine inspections, to record useful findings.
  • Surveillance.
  • Record situational information during an emergency mission.


Mission Planner: It is an advanced feature that allows an operator to define a route from point A to point B with waypoints for a drone to follow. This feature can be useful in:

  • Surveillance operations, where a drone can be made to go on a patrol on a predefined path.
  • Public safety and emergency operations, where a drone can be programmed to go to a location and monitor the situation.
  • Industrial inspections, where a drone can complete a pipeline inspection autonomously over a predefined path.
  • Defining a delivery route for drone delivery.


Support for custom drones: FlytNow supports enterprise DJI drones and custom drones based on PX4 and Ardupilot. Custom drones are required for specific tasks like delivery which requires long-range and heavy payload carrying capabilities. This means a service provider using FlytNow is not restricted to a particular drone hardware platform.

FlytNow Enterprise


The Enterprise version covers everything that the Business version has to offer, plus customized modules for large scale deployment of drones with extensive flight automation. These include:

AI-based features: FlytBase provides an operating system (FlytOS) that is installed in a single-board computer, which is fitted on a drone. This makes the drone capable of performing the following things under the Enterprise plan:

drone in a box solution

  • Precision landing: Allows the drone to land on a machine-generated tag.
  • Object detection: Allows the drone to classify ground objects using the on-board camera.
  • Obstacle avoidance: Allows the drone to navigate around obstacles automatically.
  • Custom payload integration: Allows remote operation of custom made payloads as well as payloads from DJI for Mavic 2 Enterprise.


Integration with ground-based hardware: The enterprise version comes with the option to integrate with various ground-based hardware like:

drone in a box

  • Charging pad: A platform that charges a drone when it lands on it. The Enterprise version can be easily integrated with charging pads from Skysense.
  • Drone-in-a-box hardware: A docking station that completely houses a drone and keeps it fully charged.


Integration with third-party software: The Enterprise version also supports integration with third-party applications for the following:

  • UTM Intelligence: It is required to acquire airspace information so the drone does not interfere with manned aircraft and complies with legal norms. FlytNow Enterprise has native support for Airmap.
  • Logging applications: Such applications capture the flight data for a drone. FlytNow Enterprise has native support for Dronelogbook.


Advanced flight planning: FlytNow Enterprise has features to precisely control drone flights and ensure the safety of drones around human populations. Some of those features are:

  • Advanced geofencing: Precisely defines the area of operation of a drone with the help of polygons.
  • Custom NFZ integration: It is the ability to define No-Fly-Zones for drones.
  • Advanced failsafes: It refers to the ELP (Emergency Landing Point) feature that allows a drone operator to define emergency landing points alongside a predefined route. ELPs come in handy when a drone in a BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) mission has to do an emergency landing.


The Enterprise version is ideal for service providers who are into making systems where drones can takeoff autonomously after receiving a command, automatically go to a location and perform their mission and come back safely after complete the mission. In a nutshell, it provides customization, automation, and scalability.

Summary


In this blog, we learned about drone-on-demand services and the use-cases they are relevant. We also learned about FlytNow Business and Enterprise editions, what each has to offer, and how each can enable drone service providers.

Deploy drones in 5 easy steps and leverage the power of FlytNow to create a network of drones for On-Demand-Drone services with capabilities of automation and AI.  To experience FlytNow, sign up for our free trial for 28 days using this link: https://flytnow.com/pricing/

If you are interested in partnering with us, please visit https://flytnow.com/partner/

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 Drone as a technology has come a long way, especially when it comes to adoption by state and local government agencies, and public safety officials. In the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, drones have proven to be quite an effective tool in the fight against COVID-19; especially in countries like China and India

We are witnessing a widespread adoption of drones across different use cases, and public safety is one such application that has yielded significant social and public health benefits. One such example is how drones saved the lives of 279 people, as shared by DJI at AirWorks2019. The total global number is, of course, orders of magnitude more, given the increasingly common use of drones for disaster monitoring, emergency response, search-and-rescue, etc. 

In the US, law enforcement agencies are rapidly adopting UAV technology for the following reasons:

  • Drones provide better accessibility to places that are dangerous for humans. 
  • Drones are ideal for capturing video evidence in the form of aerial footage, thus freeing up valuable manpower that can be deployed elsewhere. 
  • Drones are an effective tool in search and rescue operations since they can cover large swathes of land in relatively less time. 
  • Drones can provide real-time situational awareness in delicate incidents such as hostage situations.
  • Armed with different payloads and sensors, drones can keep an eye on groups of people involved in suspicious activities.

In a study conducted by Bard College, they concluded that 910 state and local law enforcement agencies across the USA have incorporated drones as part of their operations. It is safe to say that drones will play a growing role in public safety and emergency response.

 

Why Drones are the Perfect First Responders

Drones as first responders refer to the deployments of drone fleets that reach the site of emergency first, even before human responders. Drones are turning out to be perfect first responders for the following reasons:

  • They are fast, agile, and nimble and can reach a location quickly. By doing so they can provide critical, real-time support. Researchers at Tu Delft have come up with the concept of a drone ambulance where a drone carrying an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can fly to a person suffering from a cardiac arrest and provide time-critical medical support.  
  • Drones can aid human responders by going to an emergency situation first, assessing it, and sending information back, and based on which human responders can better prepare for the situation.

Understanding a Drone-based First Response System

A drone-based first responder system could be a standalone local system, or work as part of a bigger nationwide network. In either case, such a system would require the optimal combination of hardware and software, so that it can operate in an intelligent, reliable, and scalable manner. The below illustration provides an overview of such a system.
 
 
drone_public_safety_system.png
 
 

There are several components of such a system; the key ones are listed below:

Hardware

This primarily means drones that can be bought off-the-shelf or those that can be custom-built for specific purposes. Below are some specific drone models suitable for such operations:
 
 
drones_for_public_safety.png

Fleet Management Software

 
 

At the heart of a drone-based first response system is a cloud-connected solution like FlytNow, for the following reasons:

  • First-responder applications require the management of a fleet of drones.
  • Public safety use-cases may require autonomous drone flights in order to minimize the reliance on human pilots. 
  • Emergencies may happen in remote areas and hence require beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) capabilities.
  • Being an aircraft, each drone must respect airspace management rules and regulations so that there is no conflict with manned aircraft or other aerial vehicles.

Such capabilities are available in FlytNow, a robust drone automation platform that supports drone fleet management, BVLOS operations, and third-party integration with UTM service providers for airspace intelligence. FlytBase customers are already using FlytNow to power their first responder systems.  

A Texas, US company called Phirst Technologies has developed a solution called First iZ using FlytNow to deploy a fleet of drones via the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system that powers the 911 emergency services in the US. The system works by allowing a 911 operator to dispatch drones from a unified dashboard to gather situational awareness on an emergency situation, and thus assisting human responders before and after they arrive.

 

Onboard Software

 
 

This refers to the operating software that goes into a companion computer which is then integrated with the flight controller of a drone. The software acts as the brain and keeps the drone connected with the fleet management system at the base station. 

FlytNow Business/Enterprise comes with its own ‘edge level’ software (FlytOS) that provides the following capabilities:

  • BVLOS or EVLOS operations over 4G/LTE/5G networks.
  • Precision landing and hover features that can be used to land a drone on a charging pad (see FlytDock).
  • Collision avoidance, a critical feature in BVLOS flights (see FlytCAS).
  • Remote control of payload attachments and camera gimbal.
 

Drone-in-a-Box (DiaB) Hardware

 

A ‘drones as the first responder’ system requires the support of ground-based hardware like charging pads, launch systems, etc. The hardware is required to automate the launch of a drone and putting a drone to charging mode when it returns from a mission. FlytNow offers integration with third-party DiaB hardware from some of the following solution providers:

wiport.jpg

The integration capabilities of FlytNow combined with smart automation has enabled Phirst Technologies to deliver a public safety solution using drones (First iZ). One of the unique capabilities of the First iZ system is that it can send a drone to a location and capture the required data autonomously; this wouldn’t be possible without FlytNow’s support for ground-based hardware.

 

Airspace Intelligence

 
Security.png

BVLOS flights in remote, rural areas must be enabled by a first responder system. When conducting BVLOS drone flights, it is important that they don’t interfere with manned-aircrafts or break static, as well as dynamic, airspace norms. Such airspace intelligence is usually available from UTM service providers, whose solutions can be seamlessly integrated into FlytNow so that operators can conduct safe and legal flights. 

Note: Read about the partnership between FlytNow and Airmap.

 

Payloads

 

Depending on the situation, drones require specific payloads to get the job done. For example, in a search and rescue mission, a drone may use an IR sensor to locate the missing person. Such payloads and sensors can be remotely controlled via FlytNow, including:

  • IR Sensor: Commonly known as a thermal camera that captures infrared radiation. 
  • Loudspeakers: Useful in making announcements and riot control.  
  • Spotlights: An important attachment for search and rescue.
  • Beacons: Such devices are used to make a drone visible from the ground in low light.
 
 
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Advanced Failsafes

Despite rigorous flight tests, drones can sometimes fail from the sky, posing a threat not just to the drone but more so to the people and infrastructure below. This highlights the importance of fail-safes i.e. a set of actions to be automatically taken in the event of such an emergency. 

FlytNow offers out of the box failsafe features like RTH (Return to Home) and ELP (Emergency Landing Point).

 

How to Quickly Demo First Response System Using FlytNow Pro

 

FlytNow Pro is a lighter version in terms of features compared to our business and enterprise versions. But it is perfect for someone who is looking for a solution to quickly validate a first response system using drones. After a successful POC, he/she can upgrade to our business or enterprise version for the full-fledged implementation.

 

How to get started with FlytNow.

 

Step-1: As someone who is looking for a solution for a quick PoC. You need to first sign up for our 28 days free trial from https://app.flytnow.com/

 

Step-2: Once you are done with your account setup and email verification. Add your drones by following our Get Started guide. 

Step-3: This is an optional step. If you don’t have real drones then you can use our virtual drone. Your FlytBase free account comes with one free virtual drone that you can add by following this guide

Step-4:  A mission is a set of instructions that tells a drone where to go and how to go. In the context of a first response system, the feature can be used to tell a drone to visit a location and investigate why there’s an emergency. Go to the MISSION tab from the dashboard and click on Add Mission.

 
 
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Give a name to your mission and click on Add Waypoint. By using the drop pins you can create a route to any location. While defining a route you can limit the speed and altitude. 

When creating a route, you can also define a finish action that tells a drone what to do when reaching a location. Currently, there are three options in the system:

  • Hover
  • Land
  • Return to Home
 
 
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Step-5: Set up a geofence, which defines a drone’s area of operation. In FlytNow Pro, a geofence is a circular region within which a drone can fly. A first response system is more likely to function within a specific region and a geofence is a perfect feature to define that region. Follow this guide to create a geofence.

Note: A drone cannot fly beyond its defined geofence. In the enterprise version, polygon geofence is supported. 

Step-6:  Create Pre-flight Checklist items. FlytNow comes with a list of items that you have to check before executing a mission. The checklist serves to remind you of the important things that you have to keep in mind before sending a drone out for a mission.  You can add items to the checklist by going to the CHECKLIST tab -> Add to Checklist.

 
 
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Step-7: Enable video live streaming. When a drone is out on a mission,  you can stream the live video from the drone and even share it via email. This feature is critical in the context of First Response because when a drone reaches a location, you can assess the situation from the live video feed sent by the drone. FlytNow also supports the streaming of video from multiple drones on a single dashboard. Refer to this guide to use video live streaming.

Initiating a First Response Mission

 
 

This is how you will demonstrate your system. Consider a situation, where you have received an emergency alert and you have to send a drone. To execute a drone flight you will follow the following steps:

Step-1: Create a mission for a drone so it can reach that location. 

Step-2: Select a drone and click on the launch button.

 
 
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Step-3: Select the mission that you just created.

 
 
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Step-4: The system will present you with a pre-flight checklist; mark all of them as complete and Execute the mission.

 
 
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FlytNow Business/Enterprise - A Complete Solution for First Response System

 
 

The above demonstration gives a quick, cost-effective option to prove, conceptually, a first response system, using FlytNow. Once the PoC is successful, users can transition either to the business version or the enterprise version that provides additional features, such as: 

  • Team management & administration. 
  • Support for polygon geofence.
  • Precision landing so that drones can land on charging pads automatically. 
  • Localization of language based on a user’s region. 
  • Thermal camera integration. 
  • Supports DJI M2E payloads. 
  • Mission log.
  • Support for custom build drones based on PX4 and Ardupilot. 
  • Integration with third-party UTM services providers, for BVLOS and EVLOS flights. 
  • Support for thermal cameras and remote gimbal control for visual data in low light situations.

FlytNow business is an out-of-the-box solution for public safety operations. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Indian police officials in the state of Gujarat flew drones to monitor the streets of Ahmedabad (an Indian city) for unlawful gathering with support from a local startup (Dronelab). Dronelab worked with the government officials to establish a drone command center using FlytNow, which allowed public safety officials to centrally access the video feed of all the drones flying over the city. Drone pilots who wanted to volunteer used the FlytOS mobile app to connect his/her drone to the FlytNow dashboard that was being used at the command center. Read the complete case study

Both the versions include the support for our cloud connect kit that can be loaded in a companion computer, which in turn can be integrated with the flight controller of DJI enterprise drones and custom drones based on PX4 and Ardupilot. The companion computer coupled with our onboard software enables a drone to connect with FlytNow over 4G/LTE/5G networks. The enterprise version also provides support for DiaB (Drone in a box) hardware which generally includes a charging pad. A drone can land on a DiaB box using its precision landing feature.

 
 
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What's Next?

Leverage the power of FlytNow to conduct remote public safety operations with capabilities of automation and AI. Get started by signing up FlytNow for free.

If you are interested in partnering with us, please visit https://flytnow.com/partner/.

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FlytBase, Inc. flagship product FlytNow is a cloud-based drone video streaming & fleet management solution, which provides a web-based portal to manage live drone operations remotely over 4G/LTE/5G. FlytNow provides live HD video feed, drone & camera gimbal control, and telemetry at ultra-low latency over the internet.

To empower users with the ability to use drones from a variety of manufacturers, FlytBase has now launched a Companion Computer (SBC) based Cloud Connect Software Module for the FlytNow platform. The software module supports custom drones using the firmware PX4 and Ardupilot, and popular autopilots like Pixhawk, Cubepilot, mRo X2.1 (a reduced version of Pixhawk1), Pixhawk4, Pixhawk5, etc. It also supports enterprise DJI drones like  DJI M210, M210 RTK, M300 RTK, M600, etc. and flight DJI controllers: A3 and N3. 

Role of custom drones

Custom drones built for a particular use-case provide better capabilities and efficiency compared to standard off-the-shelf drones. For example, in delivery operations, drones are required to fly long distances and carry heavy payloads; custom VTOL drones can fulfill such requirements. Similarly, for security, public safety, and emergency operations, drones that can carry specialize payload (thermal camera, loudspeaker, beacons, etc) and can transmit data securely are better suited, which can be achieved through a custom-built.  

How the PX4/Ardupilot Cloud Connect Module Works?

The cloud-connect module is a software solution to connect Pixhawk & CubePilot based Drones with FlytNow Business and FlytNow Enterprise.

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Users can install the software on a companion computer of their choice (Jetson Nano, Jetson Xavier NX, Raspberry Pi 3b+/4 Odroid N2, DJI Manifold 2) and then connect the companion computer (SBC) directly to a drone’s flight controller. Once integrated, the drone can directly connect with FlytNow Business/Enterprise over 4G/LTE/5G/WiFi network through USB/Ethernet dongle or router on the companion computer. 

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Why Connect to FlytNow Business/Enterprise Edition?

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Connecting a drone with FlytNow using an SBC allows a user to perform remote drone operations with the drone fleet. It also enables EVLOS or BVLOS (might require regulatory clearance) flights, thus opening up business opportunities in security & surveillance, drone delivery, mapping & surveys, public safety, emergency response, inspections, etc.

“FlytNow compatibility with PX4, Ardupilot, and DJI drones allows system integrators, commercial drone operators, and subject matter experts to use a hybrid fleet of drones better suited to their requirements. 
Subject matter experts or operation heads can now see live HD video feed, telemetry at the back office as the drone operation commences on the field. This adds a lot of value for drone teams and leads to better management, ultimately saving time & cost.” - Achal Negi, Head of Business Development at FlytBase.

The FlytNow Business Edition provides out-of-the-box capabilities for operators involved in security, surveillance, public safety & emergency response. Whereas, the Enterprise version provides customization and end-to-end automation to scale drone operations with a large fleet for use-cases such as drone delivery, automated surveys, inspections, and monitoring.

Stakeholders that use the FlytNow Business/Enterprise for drone operations can:

 

  • Connect, control, and live stream videos from drones over 4G/LTE/5G network.
  • Connect multiple drones and control them from a single web-based dashboard. 
  • Live-stream multiple video-feeds and share them with third parties via email.
  • Connect to a private cloud for video archiving. 
  • Initiate advanced failsafes like RTH (Return to Home) to automatically make a drone return base and ELP (Emergency Landing Point), available only in the Enterprise version, which allows a drone to land on a predefined point along a route in case of an emergency.
  • Integrate with third-party airspace information service providers like Airmap (an Enterprise feature). This feature is crucial for BVLOS and EVLOS flights. 
  • Create advanced geofence using polygons in the Enterprise version. 
  • Integrate precision landing and collision avoidance capabilities (only in Enterprise version)

How do I get started?

  1. To get started with FlytNow, sign up for a 28-day free trial at https://app.flytnow.com

  2. To connect your Pixhawk/Cubepilot drone choose the supported drone hardware and install the software following the documentation given at https://docs.flytbase.com

  3. Cloud connect software module and license can be purchased at https://store.flytbase.com/product/flytnow-bvlos-kit/

Have questions about FlytNow Pro/Business/Enterprise and supported hardware?
Schedule a 30-min free consultation with FlytNow expert -- drop a message at
https://flytnow.com/contact

You may also join FlytNow user community on Facebook, LinkedIn, and FlytForums (forums.flytnow.com)

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In the wake of the recent COVID-19 outbreak which has affected almost every nation, government organizations and law-enforcement agencies are in search of an effective solution to fight this pandemic with minimal human interaction.

Drones seem to be an appropriate solution to tackle this menace. Apart from the transportation of emergency medical & pharmaceutical supplies, health-kits and blood samples, these unmanned aerial vehicles can effectively aid authorities in administering a state of lockdown.

A report in South China Morning Post says, the Chinese government “has adapted and co-opted industrial drones to help ensure that an estimated 50 million residents are kept at home and indoors across a dozen cities.” A fleet of drones is estimated to replace the surveillance capacity and enforcement duties of more than 100 policemen operating in dozens of patrol vehicles across a 10 square kilometer radius.

3 ways in which Drones can help manage lockdowns

While the need for social distancing and self-quarantining has already been enforced by most of the local and national government bodies in the form of curfews or lockdowns, there lies a constant necessity to monitor public spaces, in order to make sure that people are at all times following the state-mandated orders.

Equipped with thermal sensors, HD zoom lenses, loudspeakers, beacons, and disinfectant spray jets, drones are playing a crucial role in arresting the spread of the deadly virus.

1. Remote Aerial Patrolling

Remote Aerial Patrolling

As a response to the current public health crisis, drones powered with FlytNow can send ultra-low latency (<1 second) live-video feed over 4G/5G/LTE network to a cloud-based remotely operated COVID-19 command control center. The captured video streams can be further shared with stakeholders and decision-makers located anywhere across the world, to help monitor the overall social situation and take measures to control the crowd and maintain public safety.

Police authorities can autonomously capture data for a predefined/geofenced area of interest, or send the drone to specific GPS coordinates – on-demand during emergency situations. They can also combine and manage a fleet of drones with a variety of payloads, battery endurance, and capabilities. To operate 24×7, thermal camera scans can be integrated for night-time surveillance to detect a breach of lockdown protocols.

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Drones equipped with high-definition cameras for a wide field of view, can monitor a large area including narrow roads and by-lanes and take appropriate action to curb overcrowding at several locations.

Taking advantage of the FlytDock precision-landing module, with centimeter-level accuracy, drones can be safely landed on any designated spot or even a moving vehicle, significantly reducing the risk of emergency personnel being infected by the pathogen.

Why use FlytNow:

  • Live HD video-feed at the remote station over 4G/LTE
  • Cover large area or city with fleet of drones
  • Remote gimbal control to pan/tilt drone camera to look around
  • Sharing live video feed with across police stations
  • Thermal camera integration for night surveillance
  • Automated patrol on regular intervals

2. Remote Crowd Management

Crowd Management using Drones

Public authorities using FlytNow can use drones to monitor a large area for unauthorized human gathering, since human contact is the primary way in which the coronavirus is spreading.

Built-in features like geofencing, autonomous flight, and automatic movement detection, can help authorities to catch offenders during a routine autonomous FlytNow patrol with minimum human involvement. This will allow for easy control and management of a large area with a small number of drone operators.

Fitted with loudspeakers, drones can be deployed to issue advisories, share key information, warn the public against breaching restrictions or broadcast lockdown rules and regulations, to effectively monitor and calm a panic-stricken crowd.

Drone can be the first responders in the event of an emergency like a riot, and can de-escalate the situation using onboard attachments like a siren or remotely controlled non-lethal weapon. Both the drone and its attachment can be controlled from the FlytNow dashboard. Since FlytNow supports most major drone hardware platforms, authorities can use different kinds of drones based on the situation; for example, a combination of both heavy and light drones can be used.

Why use FlytNow:

  • Live video feed from drones at the operation center for remote monitoring.
  • Automatic movement detection
  • People and vehicle counting using AI.
  • Integration with loudspeakers or sirens to monitor the crowd.

3. Remote Public Announcements

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In a lockdown situation where the communication channels also have been shut down, drones can be used to make important announcements in an area.

Using FlytNow, authorities can dispatch a fleet of drones, which will follow a predefined path, carrying a public address system. With a message played on a loop, a fleet of drones can cover a large area compared to traditional vehicles.

Why use FlytNow:

  • Broadcast audio message to a fleet of drones equipped with a loudspeaker
  • Automated flights on a regular interval
  • Remotely transmit a message to lockdown offenders
  • Cover large area with a fleet of drones

Drones in Action Around the World for COVID-19

Drones are already in action and law enforcement officials, across the world, are already using it. In Bengaluru, India, police are using drones to catch offenders who are disobeying the lockdown.

France has also deployed drones to enforce their lockdown. Police are running aerial patrols in the streets of Nice and warning the residents not to venture out of their homes.

China has gone a step further; they have deployed heavy drones equipped with special attachments to disinfect large swathes of lands by spraying chemicals in the air.

Conclusion

Drones are already at the forefront of the worldwide battle against COVID-19. At FlytNow, we want to support public health and safety stakeholders in every corner of this world, which is why we are providing the FlytNow Pro solution free of cost to people during the coming weeks.

FlytNow Pro takes care of the complexities of managing a large number of drones, so that health workers, police, firefighters, and other public safety personnel can focus on getting the job done.

Get free access to the FlytNow Pro, sign up at https://app.flytnow.com

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FlytNow Guest Link Sharing offers the capability to share live drone video feed and telemetry with teammates and clients.
Scroll down for the step-by-step tutorial.

Remote Private Access to Drone Fleet, Live Video Feed & Telemetry

Enterprises worldwide are scaling their drone operations, as cost-effective drones become available off-the-shelf, and cloud-based SaaS solutions drive intelligent automation. One of the key drivers of drone fleet adoption is the ability for a variety of stakeholders to participate in drone missions. For example, an inspection of a wind turbine may involve on-site visual observers, remote subject-matter experts, safety managers from regional offices, R&D teams from corporate offices, technology partners — and even UAV regulators who seek insights into such missions before granting waivers for unmanned flights.

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Live, remote drone operations thus require not only low-latency, high-quality video feeds, but also the ability to seamlessly share such video streams across people, geographies, devices and networks. In fact, enterprise drone programs tend to involve a variety of drone hardware — including off-the-shelf drones like DJI Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Enterprise, Matrice 210/210RTK, M600 Pro, etc., for day-to-day operations and custom drones built using DJI A3, Pixhawk or Cube based autopilots with high-end sensors for rare but critical use-cases.

User-level Access to Drone Missions

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Given that privacy and security remain amongst the top concerns in the global drone ecosystem, enterprises have to carefully manage access to drone telemetry, live video streams, navigation, and payloads. With multiple, remote participants in each mission, fine-grained access — based on the roles and responsibilities of each participant — becomes central to successful drone operations.

Guest Link Sharing

It can be argued that many drone operations would be significantly more productive if secure, mission-wise remote viewing can be made available, over the Internet, via a user-friendly interface. Whether it’s a drone service provider monitoring construction sites or whether it’s the in-house drone operations manager supporting his/her colleagues for inspection of infrastructure assets, the access to live video streams — securely & remotely — can create immediate business value by enabling subject-matter experts to make better-informed decisions.

In fact, not only can remote viewers be empowered to access live video feeds in real-time, but remote operators can be given control of the drone, camera gimbal and payloads, with the on-site team serving as safety pilots and visual observers. Automating such live, remote drone operations then becomes the logical next step in the evolution and maturing of enterprise drone programs.

Drone Videos on Mobile Phones

Given the pervasiveness of mobile phones and tablets across businesses in all sectors, it is but natural for drone mission participants to expect these devices to be an integral part of the overall system. This is now easily possible via enterprise-grade mobile apps that can be easily customized, white-labeled and configured — making drone telemetry & videos extremely portable, especially in areas with robust 4G/LTE/5G networks.

Share Live Map Views, Drone Fleet Location, and other Mission-critical Data

Remote access for ‘guest’ participants in drone missions need not be limited to video — since live map views can also be seamlessly shared over the cloud, showing guest viewers the waypoints, flight paths, obstacles, etc. for each mission. Third-party maps can be integrated to overlay drone missions on satellite imagery, specific drones/payloads can provide IR/thermal camera views to remote stakeholders, and missions such as parcel delivery can be remotely monitored not only over the last-mile but all the way to the ‘doorstep’.

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Aerial video streaming is thus becoming the core of drone operations for operators, service providers, system integrators and large enterprises — with secure, user-level access for remote participants the ‘killer app’ of this technology.


Tutorial: How to share live drone video feed and map view using FlytNow

Step 1: Log in to your FlytNow account and connect your drone to the application. Follow the FlytNow getting started guide if you are a first time user.

Step 2: Click on the “Share” icon on the video box or button in the Cockpit view

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Step 3: Click on “Create new link” to generate a link

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Step 4: Enter your teammate’s or client’s valid email address with whom you wish to share video & map view and click “Send”
Note:

  • Choose appropriate options for view and drone access.
  • You may enter multiple email addresses
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Step 5: Teammate or Client receives an email with a link and Secure PIN

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Step 6: Click on the “View Operation” and enter the Secure Pin. Your teammate or client can now securely access live drone feed and telemetry.

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For any questions, you may write to us on info@flytbase.com or visit http://forums.flytbase.com/c/flytnow


How do I Deploy Commercial Drones Easily & Quickly?

FlytBase offers a 28-day free trial for users to explore the FlytNow Pro edition. Customers can add their drone fleets, fly them autonomously, create flight plans & coordinate missions, set geo-fence and checklists, view and store live video footage and integrate drone operations into an existing system.

Start Now and fly your drone(s) via a free trial in 5 Easy Steps.

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