In my early twenties, I played with drones. Then, some years ago, after founding Porta Norte, I bought a new drone to examine if it was worthwhile for the project — also to play. After tinkering with it, I realized it was beneficial for many purposes.
I thought a lot about the onboarding process and how to delegate drone usage. My strategy was to learn first, then teach.
The team resisted using it at first because they feared they would break it. So I always reassured the pilot that the company would pay for another drone if something happened.
I decided to start using the drone with the engineering department to improve our engineering analysis capabilities.
The civil engineer that is physically in the project learned to fly drones. We use drones to investigate areas of the project we cannot reach, analyze water runoff damages, audit our subcontractors, and much more. We take aerial views about every two weeks.
We have expanded our drone usage to our marketing and sales department. The Community Builder in the marketing team also learned to pilot the drone to make good videos and photos for regularly updated marketing material.
I fly drones often to appreciate changes in the project from a bird’s eye point of view, supervise the operation, explain concepts to clients, spy neighbors, study engineering challenges, construction updates, understand topography better, and more.
Quick story: The first time I used my newest drone was on a friend’s birthday. The celebration was in the outskirts of Panama City, on a mountain’s cliff edge in Vacamonte. There was a lot of wind, and I dismissed the notifications. Unfortunately, the battery drained, and the drone fell in the port.
My friend’s parents gave me advice on entering the port without permission: act like the owner — say hi, wave, and don’t stop at the entrance where the guards are. So I did. The guards shouted at me, but I kept on driving.
Finally, I arrived at the area where I lost it and found it after searching for 15 minutes. On the way out, the guards stopped me, told me I violated the rules, but they let me go. Often it is better to ask forgiveness rather than permission.
Drones can also improve parties and rekindle memories. This is a video of the occasion:
We have lost two drones already in the jungle. These are a few best practices:
- Pay attention to battery levels; don’t have the drone far away with less than 50% battery.
- Avoid flying with strong winds; return the drone and land it with the first notification of strong winds the drone will give you.
- Set your height limits; if it loses GPS connection, and the automatic return sets in, and your height limit is too high, then it might lose the battery just going up.
Now the company has acquired drone skills, and we have more data points to make better-informed decisions. Having an in-house drone and learning to use it is an excellent investment. Drone technology is improving fast, and we are excited to keep tinkering with them.
The following are recent drone outputs we use:
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