5 trends that are shaping the future of reality capture

August 9, 2023
Conner Jones

From capturing aerial jobsite photos via helicopter to using drones to autonomously fly over a site in minutes – reality capture has evolved a lot in recent years, and that evolution isn’t slowing anytime soon.  As technologies in reality capture evolve, industries must evolve with it, adopting new tools and strategies to make the most out of their programs. 

The industry is changing fast, and staying ahead of the curve and having foresight into these coming trends can help you realize continued returns on your program investment and remain one step ahead of your competitors. While there is certainly a broad spectrum of pressures shaping the future of reality capture, we’ll focus on the five main trends that are coming to the industry.  The full future of reality capture is still unknown, but we know for sure that in the coming years, these tools will only become more unified, automated and intelligent. Let’s get into it. 

Commoditization reducing the barriers of entry 

Once upon a time drones and 360 cameras were incredibly expensive. Times have changed. With the proliferation of smartphones, the technology behind high-quality cameras and sensors has become commoditized. Now this technology is fairly inexpensive, giving both consumers and organizations affordable ways to capture. The story is the same for self-driving cars and LiDAR as commoditization of LiDAR tech for self-driving cars has made LiDAR drones and cameras far cheaper. To put it simply, commoditization of expensive tech has historically driven the prices of that tech down.     

We expect this commoditization of tech to expand further into reality capture, reducing the barrier to entry – in fact, this is already happening in the robotics space. Up until a few years ago, Boston Dynamics’ Spot wasn’t even available for purchase, now thanks to growing usage and better technology, any industry can purchase a Spot robot as long as they can foot the bill. And as the technology gets better and better, the demand will increase driving broader usage and reducing the cost of such intricate hardware. 

The growing demand for unified tools

If you've ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps and software platforms available these days, you're not alone. Over the past decade, we've transitioned from having practically zero industry tech to a dazzling array of tools, each promising to revolutionize our workflow. 

But with so many solutions and data points, you end up with a cluttered toolbelt of options each with its own data silo that must be manually integrated. As a result of this software fatigue, there has been an increased demand in wanting a more unified way to do the work. 

There are market pressures driving this too, as rising interest rates and overall economic uncertainty has companies of all sizes wanting to cut excess costs. A change in fundraising attitudes has also driven a lot of smaller software players to either fold or mold into something bigger. 

The need for a single unified platform for all reality capture workflows has never been higher, and we see the overabundance of variety today turning into a tighter field with only a handful of key players.

The era of artificial intelligence and machine learning

AI and machine-learning are no longer buzzwords – they’re practical tools that are helping organizations realize real returns. The advancements in AI over the past few years have been nothing short of spectacular. Open-source movements have democratized access to advanced machine learning models. Platforms like ChatGPT, which took the world by storm, showcase how AI is no longer just a futuristic concept but an integral part of our daily digital interactions.

Beyond chatbots, industries are harnessing AI in reality capture to streamline workflows and enhance efficiency. Approximately 35% of all SaaS businesses have already integrated AI or machine learning of some kind into their products. And an additional 42% of SaaS businesses plan to expand on AI in some form or fashion in the future. 

The reality capture industry isn’t spared from the AI wave either. For instance, instead of relying on a human in the loop to inspect aerial data for a concrete pour, AI tools in DroneDeploy will help you inspect that same site for you in a fraction of the time. AI is helping industries find actionable insights from their captures, unify their data, and optimize the way they work. It's not just about making jobs faster; it's about unlocking new methods of work by working smarter.

Automating time-consuming tasks

If you've ever wondered where the most substantial costs lie in reality capture, you might be surprised to know it's not the fancy software or the cutting-edge hardware. It's the cost of human labor. Organizations can track a significant amount of their spending on having personnel manually gather data and perform site inspections. The future looks set to change this. Imagine instead of sending your staff into potentially hazardous areas, drones can inspect the site from above and robots can walk the site from below – all with a simple press of a button. 

Work automation doesn’t stand to just reduce costs, but it will allow companies to perform typically time-consuming work more frequently, repeatedly and with lesser chance for human error. AI and machine learning is also helping organizations automate data processes. Instead of tracking solar construction progress manually, solar construction AI reports in DroneDeploy utilize machine learning, drone imagery and solar-specific photogrammetry technology to automatically generate reports of your construction activities on site to compare against your schedule.

With hardware capable of automated capture and intelligent software platforms driving these tools, some companies are beginning to be able to inspect and uncover actionable insights from their site on a daily or even hourly basis. This takes the human out of the loop from laborious time-consuming manual tasks so that they can spend more time doing the work that requires a human touch. 

Preparing for the future of reality capture

From deconstructed data silos to autonomous site walkthroughs, reality capture is changing to become more unified, automated and intelligent. Just like when drones changed the game for aerial site capture, AI, unified data, automation and a lower bar of entry are going to amplify reality capture to help organizations realize far greater insights and returns. These trends are certain to result in significant pay off for organizations who carve out an edge against competitors who are slow to adopt. The future of reality capture isn't just about more advanced tools, but tools that work smarter.

To learn more about the trends coming to reality capture, check out our recent live discussion on the topic. 

About the Author

Conner Jones
Conner Jones
Content Marketing Manager

Conner Jones currently manages content marketing at DroneDeploy. Conner helps tell the DroneDeploy story across a wide array of social and web channels, showcasing the power of drones and reality capture in a diverse range of industries.

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