Updated: Oct 22, 2021
EV TechNEWS sends its deepest appreciation to Mr. Gilbert Coronado (Project Manager at Phoenix LiDAR) for taking his time to answer our questions about the services and products offered by Phoenix LiDAR. We hope you will both enjoy reading the below interview notes and learn more about Phoenix LiDAR.
For your questions about this interview, please feel free to CONTACT US.
EV: What are the key markets that Phoenix LiDAR serves? Do you have international customers?
GC: Phoenix LiDAR is focused primarily in the United States. Our main customer base has always been domestic. We pride ourselves in providing the highest quality customer support, along with quick reflexes to the needs of our customer base. We think that being positioned in the US gives us a unique advantage to serve our US-based customers, which there are a lot of.
This being said, we are actively expanding our international customer portfolio. Our team has made great strides to increase our international presence, including revamping our distribution pipeline so that we can have greater reach into countries and regions that are just getting started with LiDAR and GIS services.
Our goal with the RECON series is to grow the overall market share for our industry. To do so we have to focus on developing regions, and simplified workflow. We think the RECON series products are well positioned to bring down the barrier to entry for our international customers so that they can experience this great journey along with us.
EV: Are your products all manufactured in the US?
GC: All our LiDAR systems are assembled in the USA, including the new RECON series. The team here at Phoenix takes extreme care to build each system to the highest specification and quality.
Our motivation is to deliver the highest performing LiDAR systems, and the best customer experience on the market.
Phoenix has begun exploring the options of offering an entirely American made solution for the domestic market. Current Department of Defense regulations require federal contractors, and federal agencies to ONLY use approved drones over federal land and projects. The team here is very aware of the needs of such customers, and we're actively working with approved UAS vendors on integration and partnership with the ultimate goal of providing an entirely domestic solution for all DOD restricted jobs.
EV: What makes your products stand out when compared to other available solutions in the market?
GC: The Phoenix LiDAR product portfolio is more than just a conglomerate of lasers, IMUs, and cameras. The team at PLS strives for the best possible customer service, and we really do pride ourselves in that. What makes us stand out is not the superior performance of our products, but rather the way we treat our customers and provide them support during their times of need.
Everyone here at Phoenix has a passion for the customer. We believe this is what gives us the edge in the GIS market. We hear from our customers all the time about how our stellar service is. This is why they keep coming back to us, and why they consider us the golden standard of the LiDAR world.
EV: How do you see the future of LiDAR technology?
GC: The LiDAR world is so rapidly evolving that in the last few years we have seen more innovation than compared to the previous decade combined. Previously second-rate "automotive" class sensors are now so good we're seeing them used more and more for mapping purposes. LiDAR data has become more democratized with the expansion of cloud-based services for processing and hosting point cloud data.
In the near future we think that LiDAR will become increasingly cheaper and easier to use. These benefits should expand the market as a whole, and increase the number of use cases for LiDAR systems. We think this will bring more industries together, allowing for even more of our world to be captured using LiDAR.
EV: What is the main focus of the RECON series?
GC: Building a cost-effective LiDAR Solution that provides lifetime value and flexibility for our
customers. The goal at Phoenix, with the introduction of these products, is to expand the global LiDAR mapping market, through education, and lowering the barriers to entry.
The RECON series targets a user-friendly experience that doesn't break the bank, enabling more businesses and individuals to get involved in using aerial LiDAR. We hope by both making cost-effective hardware, and pairing it with intuitive workflows, we will encourage more customers to take the leap into LiDAR.
EV: How does the RECON series accomplish reducing entry level cost?
GC: We focused hard to trim the premium features of our current solutions, and leave only the quality performance of our best LiDAR solutions. The RECON series does not sacrifice high-quality scanning, it simply offers the most lightweight and flexible options at a price-point that bring extreme value to the end user. We took a very close look at our current offerings and asked how we could cut costs without sacrificing LiDAR performance. This process involved removing some of the more premium features of our SCOUT and RANGER series. We dug deep to minimize weight and profile of the new RECON series so that it would fly efficiently on the M300. We attacked cost of operations and costs per acre scanned by optimizing the acquisition process and simplifying the workflow to the point where in-person training is not needed. Acquiring and processing data from the RECON series is so simple it's revolutionized the Phoenix workflow, and we have passed these benefits on to our customers.
EV: What kind of flexibility do the RECON LiDAR units provide to the end user?
GC: The RECON-XT can be mounted to any vehicle; Land / Sea / UAV and provide a lightweight LiDAR solution that can accomplish any job. The RECON units can be powered from the auxiliary power port, making them agnostic to the vehicle used to capture data. Using the GUI interface, users can stop and start recording wirelessly from their mobile device. This enables great control of the unit from any mounted position, even if the unit is not accessible during the data acquisition. RECON units record onto external USB storage, and can accept a number of USB 3.0 devices. This ensures there will never be storage limitations during data capture, as adding more storage is as simple as plugging in another empty USB drive.
EV: What are the major changes to the Phoenix LiDAR workflow?
GC: With the introduction of the RECON series, we are also introducing a software package that is extremely lightweight. PCMaster Suite allows the end user to fuse and colorize their point cloud data, providing a simple workflow for LAS export and will easily integrate with their own workflow for their specific use-case. PCMaster Suite enables a truly simplified workflow and removes the headaches related to software training. With the one click PPK workflow, users can process their trajectory and LiDAR data together with minimal steps, producing a LAS file with extreme efficiency. The simplified workflow extends from the ease of use of our RECON hardware, to the simple workflow of PCMaster Suite. The end goal for Phoenix is to remove complexity from the process, making it easier to train the workflow, and lowering the barrier of entry so that more of your workforce can understand and utilize the great benefits of aerial LiDAR.
EV: What drone is recommended for flying the RECON series on a UAV?
GC: The RECON series was designed for DJI enterprise drones like the DJI M300 and M200 series. With it's built in SkyportV2, the RECON series is ready to fly on any DJI enterprise drone, with a maximum flight time on the DJI M300 of 35 minutes. Thanks to the auxiliary power port on the RECON series, any vehicle can carry the RECON series. We designed the RECON series with the M300 in mind, however we made sure that integrations for now and the future will be possible with a number of great vehicles. The mission planning portion of our workflow is done inside of the Phoenix Flight Planner. This means that your missions will be available to export for a number of flight applications and aircraft.
EV: What are some clear use cases for the RECON series?
GC: The RECON series make excellent budget-focused systems, however they do have specialties among them individually. The RECON-A is excellent for UAV scanning of power lines as it's optional laser pattern makes it an excellent tool for getting high density scans on those low-reflective transmission lines. The RECON-A is the most cost effective system Phoenix has ever offered. The RECON-A rethinks what is possible with aerial LiDAR, providing a streamlined workflow, with a hyper-efficient LiDAR system. Combined with it's stellar abilities to capture low-reflectance power lines, this tool is excellent for firms that are surveying power lines and towers.
The RECON-XT includes an auxiliary mount, combined with it's 360 degree laser, so it can be adapted for use either in mobile scanning or backpack scanning making them versatile and value-stretching systems. Thanks to the versatility and low cost of this system, capturing tons of data from a mobile or backpack scanning mission is possible at a fraction of the operations cost of more traditional LiDAR systems. The upcoming roof rack mount for automotive scanning looks to incorporate high resolution 360 imagery with the LiDAR data from the RECON units for a complete mobile scanning solution.
EV: Are there any annual costs to operating the RECON solutions?
GC: With the RECON LiDAR solutions, our customers will need post processing software to complete their workflow. Phoenix will offer an annual subscription for post processing software, so that our RECON customers can both process their trajectory data, and process their point clouds neatly in one software suite. Additionally RECON customers will be covered under the PLS CARE program for 1 year included with the purchase of a RECON solution. The PLS CARE program extends the hardware warranty of each RECON system (up to three years optional), and makes sure each customer gets unlimited support and the latest software/firmware updates from our support team while they have an active PLS CARE subscription.
EV: What is the biggest difference in strategy between the RECON series and other Phoenix product lines such as the SCOUT series?
GC: Phoenix aims to minimize bloated costs and overhead, instead passing the savings onto our customers, providing them with a no-frills LiDAR experience. We want to democratize LiDAR for new and inexperienced customers, opening new doors and making the industry larger as a whole. We target this goal specifically by cutting out nice-to-have features from our legacy systems, leaving only raw LiDAR performance. The RECON series goes deeper than just lower cost to entry, we also specifically targeted the complexity of the whole workflow to make sure training and use of the RECON series is a breeze. We aimed to save our customers not just the up front costs of the system, but also the training and operations costs over the lifetime of its use.
EV: How much area can be scanned from a single flight of a DJI M300 with a RECON solution?
GC: The RECON-A at max height and minimum overlap can fly 300 acres in a single 30 minute period The RECON-XT at max height and minimum overlap can fly 340 acres in a single 30 minute period
EV: What does the future hold for the RECON series?
GC: Phoenix plans to add a number of exciting accessories and features to the RECON portfolio. Development for geo-referenced photogrammetry is underway, and backpack and roof rack accessories for the RECON series are also under development. We are exploring further optimizing the workflow of the RECON series and how we can further increase the lifetime value of the RECON solutions for our customers. At Phoenix we are constantly evaluating the market and the new technology in the space. We will iterate the RECON series as we see fit to the changing market conditions.