Drone Advice chats in-depth with Mahmood Hussein, CEO of Global Drone Solutions (GDS), about developments in the domestic and international drone industry. GDS is a CASA-approved drone pilot training organisation founded in 2014. GDS harnesses drone technology to solve both social and business problems and create new business opportunities.

DroneAdvice: Could you give the readers a quick wrap on your thoughts about the year just gone (and what lies ahead) in the drone industry?

Mahmood: 2018 proved to be a big year for the commercial drone industry as a whole, and it certainly was for Global Drone Solutions. For example: CASA releasing the draft Manual of Standards (MOS) and seeking feedback – the MOS will help standardise the drone industry by setting specific training and operational requirements; the Senate Committee handing down its finding; and new products and regulatory frameworks being introduced globally.

Those are just a couple of the highlights. I believe that 2019 is set to be even bigger for the industry, as major developments with regulations, new products (both in hardware and software) and Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) have been predicted to come together in a big way in 2019.

Photo by GDS
DroneAdvice: There is still a feeling in some quarters that drones are a bit like toys and that basically anyone can fly them. As a CASA-approved drone pilot training organisation, what are GDS’s thoughts on this?

Mahmood: We are finding the opposite, we see a lot more organisations recognising drones as a valuable tool, rather than a toy. The reduction in the price and improvement in reliability and quality of drone platforms over the past 12 months have been key factors in this change.

Furthermore, the risk from a customer’s perspective has been reduced dramatically, as companies like Global Drone Solutions offer consultancy services to help organisations establish compliant drone operations within their businesses.

Drone Hardware and Pilot
DroneAdvice: Are you noticing any new or developing trends in enrolments of certain sub-sets of professionals or in use-cases that these professionals are looking to target?

Mahmood: In a nutshell, yes we are. I am always surprised with some of the applications our clients are using drones for.

Agriculture

We recently trained a client who was using drones to muster cattle in a novel way. The client was using a thermal camera with the drone and was able to get live data on the head of cattle in any paddock at any time, but more importantly was able to tell when an animal was either ill or pregnant (due to the increase in the heat signature). This improved the efficiency of their operations.

Drone Hardware

Underground mining

The use of lidar technology and applications are increasing due to reductions in size/weight/cost – making it a commercially viable option and the potential for some very exciting applications in underground mining.

Air taxis (passenger drones)

Air taxis (Jetsons, here we come): there is a considerable amount of talk/action about the use of air taxis both in Australia and globally. In Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, State governments have started discussions about the possibilities of drone taxis in the next 3-5 years.

As a matter of fact, a local Perth property developer has just lodged a planning application for an apartment block in South Fremantle, which includes an air taxi landing pad on the roof.

In the Middle East, Dubai has just completed a successful test of a 2-seater drone taxi by Volocoptor. which I expect will be in operation sometime in 2019.

There are new applications being found across a broad range of industries every day. It certainly is an exciting time to be in this industry.

Drone Training
DroneAdvice: We hear a lot about the use of drones in large industries like construction, agriculture and infrastructure – industries that drones have been disrupting in a major way. What are your thoughts on the use of drones in lesser-profiled industries such as security and insurance?

Mahmood: A good question Andrew, we have trained quite a few pilots in these industries in the past 12 months. Both security and insurance industries are gaining traction, and the potential for both industries is enormous: especially as both are ripe for disruption.

As I mentioned earlier, the costs for both hardware and software is coming down to a level where the financial risk is reduced, coupled with support from organisations like Global Drone Solutions is reducing the overall risk even further.

Additionally, several tech companies have seen the potential in these industries and have developed apps which makes it much easier to gather and share the captured data, both internally and externally.

DJI Inspire drone

One example from a security perspective that comes to mind is a lady who owned a small but very prospective gold mine, she was finding unauthorised people stealing from her property, who would become aggressive, if she approached them. After obtaining her drone pilots licence through GDS, she uses the drone to capture data from a safe distance of the culprit on her property, and the damage they have done, at the same time capturing vehicle registration details to pass to the police. The word spread fast and she tells me that it has practically eliminated unauthorised entries on her property.

We have other pilots who are using drones to find native plant seeds from difficult to reach areas, to collecting whale snot during the whale migration…

GDS Drone Theory Training
DroneAdvice: Could you let the readers know about the recent partnership GDS formed with WeRobotics and the work that is being done by the partnership to develop FlyingLabs® in low-income countries?

Mahmood: We are very pleased with our partnership with WeRobotics, as it allows us to deliver on our company’s “why”, which is “making a real-world difference through drones”. It also allows us to pay forward and for technology to make the World a better place. We chose WeRobotics, as our goals are aligned. We wanted aid to reach disaster-affected communities more quickly, meet the health needs of remote communities more rapidly and help achieve sustainable development goals faster.

We believe we can accelerate and scale the positive impact on these communities through the use of drones. And we both want to build local capability.

Since our partnership in September 2018, we have trained pilots in FlyingLabs® in Tanzania, Kenya and South Pacific, with another 15 Flying Labs taking the online training in early 2019. The online component focuses specifically on the theory section required for a drone pilot license. Upon completing this training, Flying Labs pilots are issued a certificate of completion by GDS, which already carries weight in many countries in which Flying Labs operate.

Drones in sky

We are exploring ways to expand this meaningful collaboration further to bring additional services to the global network of Flying Labs.

DroneAdvice: What are your thoughts on the regulation of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations?

Mahmood: I believe Australia is in the early stage of BVLOS operations, as only a few companies are working/testing BVLOS operations. I think BVLOS offers the industry a magnificent opportunity provided we can get the regulations, certification and training in place, and the public on board, the latter being the most difficult (as we are finding with Project Wing in Canberra).

Drone and Sectional Charts

I am aware of BVLOS operations combined with Unmanned Traffic Management systems (UTM) being tested in other parts of the world, namely United States and Europe. This should help to fast-track operations in Australia.

* Mahmood is a seasoned Senior Executive who has previously held numerous senior executive positions with national and multinational market leaders in the mining, automotive and advanced manufacturing industries. 

You can get in touch with Global Drone Solutions via their website.

Photos by Global Drone Solutions.