Komatsu Smart Construction Orders 1,000 Drones

March 22, 2018
Drones will guide Komatsu equipment

Commercial drone data company Skycatch, and China-based DJI, manufacturer of civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, announced their partnership to manufacture and deliver a fleet of high-precision drones for Komatsu Smart Construction. This is the first time DJI has manufactured a custom drone for a partner.

Each customizable Matrice 100 drone will be manufactured by DJI and outfitted with specialized Skycatch technology which will include the Guidance GPS module.

The Explore1 drones come with the Edge1 base station that does image processing without the need for an active internet connection. The Skycatch drones algorithms can recognize basic materials on a construction site, as well as people and other vehicles, and users can supply their own data to train new algorithms.

The value of the contract was not revealed but the commercially available Matrice 100 is available for about $3,200. Add on the $1,000 per unit Guidance GPS and the Skycatch $1,800 per month subscription and the 1,000 drone order, which DJI says is the largest commercial drone order in history, comes to just under a million dollars.

Komatsu Smart Construction plans to use the Skycatch Explore1 drones will autonomously fly over job sites to create highly accurate 3D site maps and models.

The map data will be used for Komatsu Smart Construction’s new data service that enables robotic earth moving equipment to correctly dig, bulldoze, and grade autonomously according to digital construction plans. Komatsu has a long and successful history of incorporating innovative technologies in construction and is currently developing unmanned and autonomous vehicles for remote operation in dangerous terrain. 

Chikashi Shike, executirve officer with Komatsu's Smart Construction Division said, “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.”

DJI is getting ready to enter either the Hong Hong or mainland China stock markets with an IPO possibly next year. The additional funds will be used to expand their drone market into construction, energy and infrastructure inspection.