Caterpillar's Digital DNA: Drones

June 17, 2016

Todd Crawford has a passion for gadgets, photography and innovation.

For the last 1.5 years, he’s been channeling that passion into getting Caterpillar’s drone initiative off the ground. (Buh dum ching!)

Aerial photography and photogrammetry (in layman’s terms, photographing and surveying from the air to measure distance between objects and map sites) have been around for a long time. As drones became smaller and cheaper, tech companies started using the aerial data acquired by drones to help customers across several industries optimize their resources. And Caterpillar sees potential benefits for its customers as well. Data acquired by drones could help customers take advantage of everything from 3D modeling of the actual jobsite to helping everyone – from contractors to quarry managers, from accountants to the executive office – use the data and reporting to understand their production and productivity faster and more cost effectively than they can with traditional survey methods.

Redbird, an analytics startup based in Paris and San Francisco, is a pioneer in this space. Many of Redbird’s customers are also potentially our customers – and vice versa. So, last year, Caterpillar entered into a marketing agreement with Redbird because we think drones should be one tool in our toolbox to help our customers better understand their worksites.

Crawford has been working closely with Redbird this year. "They help us stay in front of this technology," he said.

Caterpillar, Cat® dealers and companies like Redbird are already gathering site terrain parameters and real-time machine metrics. It’s up to us and our customers to define how that data will be used. Already, this information is helping customers make better-informed decisions to drive safety and efficiencies and control costs. Crawford, his Caterpillar team and Redbird are writing new algorithms and collecting new data sets to develop even more tools to help our customers become more efficient and profitable.

Watch the video to find out more about how Caterpillar is diving into digital data from drones.