Technological advances in several key areas have led to a global proliferation in small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS, UAV, or "Drones"). In addition to the increasing availability of hardware systems, recent changes in the regulatory framework governing the commercial use of these systems has dramatically increased the number of companies offering services in this field. Numerous uses exist for this new technology, from 2D surveying and mapping, to asset inspection, fugitive gas detection, post incident investigation, routine infrastructure inspection, and many others.
Because of the potential benefits enabled by this technology, many energy companies are evaluating how to best make use of UAV ("Drone") technology into their monitoring and inspection toolkit. One aspect of implementing an sUAS inspection plan that is often underestimated is the process of data transfer, ingestion, storage and access. This process is referred to in this paper as the "Drone Data Dilemma".
A single UAV performing inspection or mapping activities can easily generate more than 30 Gigabytes of data per day, typically in the form of high resolution images, or video. This data must pass through several important workflow processing steps before it is ultimately useable to the client. A set of recommendations and best practices has been developed based upon over 500 asset inspections and over a dozen mapping missions. The recommendations are comprehensive and generic, and applicable regardless of inspection company or UAV inspection company. Several case studies will document these practices in action.