Our technology enables organizations across a wide spectrum of industries, from public safety and oil and gas to telecommunications and utilities, to integrate drones into daily workflows to reduce costs

Talking Drone Telepresence with Renner Vaughn of Cape

Renner Vaughn | Cape

Please tell us about Cape and your role in drone technology?

Cape offers commercial drone software that allows organizations across nearly every industry to reap all of the benefits of commercial drone integration with none of the traditional hassles. With the Cape Aerial Telepresence platform, companies now have access to a safe, easy-to-use tool for enabling the real-time aerial visibility they need. Much like the explosion of the Mobile Enterprise following the release of the iPhone, Cape technology is powering the Aerial Enterprise, offering organizations access to a new layer of aerial insight, capabilities, and enhanced situational awareness that were never before possible.

Our technology enables organizations across a wide spectrum of industries, from public safety and oil and gas to telecommunications and utilities, to integrate drones into daily workflows to reduce costs, increase operational efficiencies, uncover untapped opportunities, and improve safety and innovation. Today, we’re seeing organizations benefit from aerial visibility for a variety of use cases, including including asset inspection and infrastructure maintenance, incident response, search and rescue, infrastructure and traffic monitoring, and even combating environmental crises. Cape’s tenured team, first-of-its-kind technology, and unique focus on enabling full drone telepresence has positioned the company as a leader in the drone industry, defining the next evolution of drone capabilities for commercial use.


What role do drones play in the utility industry today?

Traditionally, a number of constraints -- including physical constraints like distance, structure size and height and inaccessible terrain, cost and time constraints of expensive equipment or the need for experts to travel onsite, and siloed teams inspecting different areas of transmission towers have made it a challenge for utilities organizations to gain complete visibility into their operations -- which have ultimately resulted in wasted time and money, scattered data, and often compromised worker safety.

With Cape’s technology, onsite operators quickly deploy a drone, and an expert can teleoperate from anywhere in the world with the desired level of automation to gain a detailed view of the situation in real-time -- saving time and resources and increasing safety. Will full drone telepresence capabilities, Cape-enabled drones increase productivity by streamlining operations and expediting highly-manual, labor-intensive tasks such as asset maintenance and transmission and distribution line inspection -- increasing efficiency and enabling skilled employees to focus on more strategic initiatives. Beyond routine inspections, Cape technology also aids in incident response, disaster prevention and response, the construction of new transmission towers, and field data collection, with aerial data easily integrated with existing enterprise applications. For example, through integration of Cape aerial data and Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS) -- which include outage management -- Cape’s video streaming and telepresence are used to provide live situational awareness for utility operations centers.


Cape focuses on enabling drone telepresence - how is this different than traditional drone integration?

The Cape Aerial Telepresence platform is the world’s first cloud platform for full drone telepresence and data management, and easily integrates with existing off-the-shelf drone hardware. Onsite drone operators launch Cape-enabled drones, and then once in flight, up to 50 credentialed users can log in to the Cape platform via any Internet connected device to simultaneously view the live stream in real time. What makes the platform even more impactful is that it allows for fast, easy and safe teleoperation of the drone, so the right expert can take control and manipulate the drone from anywhere in the world to get the exact visibility needed. Traditionally, tasks like tower inspections or incident response required various teams to travel to the site, assess the situation and then deploy additional teams to resolve it. With Cape, assessments can be conducted remotely, experts can more quickly get eyes on the situation and all relevant teams can monitor the project remotely in real-time. Not only is this helping with business efficiencies and improving resource and travel spend, but it’s helping organizations reduce their overall carbon footprint and improve the safety of their workers.

Offering the ability to define custom geofences, no-fly zones, minimum and maximum altitudes and maximum speeds, the Cape platform provides access to a safe, reliable and scalable solution that makes the drone virtually uncrashable. The software also allows for easy integration with both additional drone hardware and existing business applications. Layered with the aerial visibility and data Cape provides, companies now have access to a more comprehensive view and understanding of their business than ever before.


I see that Cape technology is being used in other industries like oil and gas and telecommunications. What lessons from those industries can utility companies learn from?

In the oil and gas and telecommunications industries today, drones help organizations safely and efficiently assess and manage high-value assets such as production facilities and towers. This includes conducting routine inspections, and providing real-time visibility into systems and sites that were once a challenge to view, fix, and maintain, not to mention the safety concerns.

Using drones, like in the oil and gas and telecom industries, operators can easily and efficiently inspect assets like high-voltage transmission towers and power lines -- gaining all of the benefits of a first-person viewpoint, while remaining in a safe location and drastically cutting the hours it takes to manually visit sites. For example, operators deploy drones to get visibility on a potentially dangerous situation before deploying field operators in order to keep personnel out of harm's way. Remote visibility enabled by drones can slash the time and cost requirements of conducting in-depth inspections on thousands of miles of towers -- ensuring resources and personnel are dedicated to more impactful areas of work. Ultimately, the everyday use in both the oil and gas and utility industries is real-time, remote collaboration between subject matter experts and lineman or field technicians.


Utilities were at the center of the conversation surrounding the recent California wildfires. What role can drones play in helping to prevent or address major disasters?

Drones can help utility companies prevent disasters by improving regular inspection and maintenance processes, as well as enabling them to conduct disaster response efforts more quickly and efficiently than ever before. With the ability to provide a new and unmatched level of visibility and accessibility, experts can perform in-depth asset inspections with drones equipped with aerial telepresence, and deploy a crew to quickly and safely assess a potentially dangerous issue. Cape has built a platform that leverages all of the improved sensor and camera technologies to make inspection drones useful for field workers as well as upper management. Cape’s latest platform update included the integration of its dual-sensor thermal support, which enables operators to visualize both the thermal and visible light spectrums from a single camera, providing them the capability to detect the center point of an issue.

In the event that an incident occurs, Cape’s technology gives experts the ability to quickly assess a situation immediately, and ultimately minimize the impact of the event. Real-time visibility is critical for enabling quick, informed decisions based on a live stream of real-time information -- cutting response time when lives are at risk. Traditional disaster response approaches jeopardize containment of the situation, as well as safety of workers and civilians, as a result of the delayed inclusion of experts. Today, drones can act as first responders to assess a situation minutes before emergency response crews arrive to a scene -- giving them better situational awareness when they arrive and enabling them to quickly and efficiently address the issue and determine the needed resources.


There have been issues with drones hindering airline space as well as wildfire airspace. How can these miscommunications / nuisances be avoided in the future?

When it comes to the integration of drones into daily operations, safety should always be top priority. Cape technology is built with critical safeguards -- including the ability to set custom or default no-fly zones within 3D geofences, minimum and maximum altitudes and fine-tuned control of maximum drone speed -- making the drones virtually impossible to crash and ensuring they operate only within safe, defined parameters. These safeguards allow teleoperators and on-site drone technicians to confidently pilot the drone, manipulate the camera, capture high-quality still images, and live-stream the footage without the stress of entering dangerous zones due to outside causes such as wind speed.


What role will drones play in the future of the utility industry?

In the utilities industry, we’ll see operators and organizations fully benefit from the ability to view sites and towers in real time, and saving time and resources by being fully prepared to address a high-priority maintenance issue in record time. Innovative drone technology, such as Cape’s Aerial Telepresence platform, provides a centralized location for all flight data -- including flight telemetry, history and captured images and video -- which is collected and stored within the Cape Cloud. Traditionally, a handful of teams were required to manually inspect different aspects of thousands of miles of transmission towers -- resulting in scattered data -- costing companies time and money and delaying critical maintenance needs.

Additionally, evolving technology provides the ability to capture and circulate updated data in real-time, improving reliability and cutting emergency response times. We’re proud to be on the forefront of helping utility companies leverage all of the benefits that aerial visibility and intelligence offer.


Are there other drone technology developments that you would like to discuss here?

Drone technology is rapidly evolving, and is being adopted by new industries every day. Since its founding, Cape has been at the forefront of drone innovation and we are excited to see what 2019 holds for this industry.



About Renner Vaughn
Renner Vaughn joined Cape in April of 2018, and currently serves as Director of Utilities. Prior to joining Cape, Renner served as Global Program Lead, OGC at ABB, where he lead global marketing and business development for wireless communications in the oil, gas, and chemical industries for nearly 10 years. Renner received a BA, Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of RoboticsTomorrow

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