Rusty Ortkiese, Gresco Technology Solutions’ Manager of UAS, recently had the opportunity to travel to DJI’s training center in China to become acquainted with and train on new drone technology. We sat down with Rusty to ask him about his trip and learn what’s on the horizon for the UAS industry and Gresco!

Rusty, what was the purpose of your trip to DJI’s training center?

The primary purpose of the trip was training on some of the new equipment. DJI works with their enterprise dealers to train them on repairing and servicing this type of equipment. But, of course, just having the opportunity to go there – there was so much to take in. It was great getting to meet face-to-face with the people we’ve been working with all this time.

What are some new developments on the horizon for UAS?

We are most active in electric utilities and public safety markets. The Matrice 200 platform has been a big benefit for our customers, and we’re seeing the adoption of the platform grow significantly. The payload options are a good fit for visual and thermal inspections.

Another major application we see is mapping. We’re working with BirdsEyeView’s FireFLY6, a fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing aircraft, and it has various applications for mapping a wide region.

For public safety, there are several recently released products including heavy-lift drone platforms aiding in search and rescue. DJI has outfitted the new Wind-4 and Wind-8 with payload containers for deliveries and loud speakers for public address announcements in emergency situations. One of the most exciting developments for public safety and security is the new AeroScope product for tracking drones in your surrounding airspace. Think of this as a “radar system” for drones. It shows security agencies the location of drones and operators in an area that may be a security concern, as well as showing how fast and how high drones are flying. We expect this to impact public safety in a significant way.

Who is currently investing in drone technology?

We’re seeing a lot of activity in the energy sector and anyone with outdoor infrastructure, including energy and telecommunications. The companies that started drone programs a year or more ago have been exploring applications and developing their workflows, and over the last several months we’ve seen these programs mature and scale. We’ve seen this across electric utilities, law enforcement, fire departments, and the government sector.

Are there any new products from DJI that we should be excited about?

I would say the AeroScope drone tracking system is very exciting. We expect it to be embraced in public safety markets. The Wind Series products have flexibility as a powerhouse airframe, which brings new options to both public safety and industrial applications. The AGRAS product in the agricultural market is maturing, and we’re seeing a growing interest in this for precision spraying of crops.

What is your favorite all-purpose utility drone right now?

For industrial work, the Matrice 200 series is the workhorse. It’s purpose-built for industrial workflows and applications. Right now, we see the expansion in that userbase, and it will be the go-to drone platform for the foreseeable future.

You were also at the DistribuTECH conference and expo. What did you hear from people who visited your booth? Have you seen an increase in interest in UAS since last year’s show?

We’ve seen general interest for several years, but now we see actionable interest; we definitely got that from our experience at DistribuTECH. This technology captures peoples’ imagination, so the interest has been strong for a while. As with any new technology, there are hurdles to overcome to implement it successfully in an organization. Over the last year, we’ve seen a lot of our customers overcome initial hurdles and position themselves to start capturing the value. At DistribuTECH, several of our current customers came by ready to scale up their programs, so we consulted with them on the next steps. Then, there were utilities that have seen their neighbors start up drone programs and said, “Our leadership has decided that it is time for us to get involved. What do we need to do and how do we get started?”

Anything new to look forward to from Gresco UAS?

We’ve got several initiatives to expand our service offerings around drones. Of course, on the supply chain side, we are always bringing in new products and stocking equipment so it is readily available. Two of our main initiatives this year are to establish our service center for drone repairs and maintenance and to expand our UAS training. We have completed a new set of training content that will be rolling out soon. Finally, we’re expanding our reach in the market by working with local channel partners around the country and in different industry sectors. We want to be the best supply chain partner possible in this growing field, so we are putting the pieces in place to make that happen.