Microsoft Azure in Product Services
In order to offer a comprehensive range of product services using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for storing and processing of the measured data, Hanseatic Aviation Solutions GmbH was faced with the decision to either build its own in-house solution or rely on a cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a service (IaaS) solution. With the help of Axtrion’s consulting and given the benefits of Microsoft Azure platform in terms of scalability and flexibility at a comparatively low cost, Hanseatic Aviation Solutions (HAvS) decided to use Microsoft Azure as the backbone for its product services.
Field of Business
The company Hanseatic Aviation Solutions (HAvS) develops and manufactures Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and acquires customer orders for landscape surveys. For the recording of the measurement data desired by its customers HAvS builds diverse components such as cameras in the visible and infrared range, laser scanners and geo-magnetic sensors in the UAV and performs the landscape surveys by overflying the UAV.
The landscape survey using UAV for obtaining the measured values requires the construction of a customer- and project-specific UAV. The specification for the required components to be integrated in an UAV must be coordinated in detail in advance with the component manufacturers and presented to the client by HAvS for approval. The design of the components, their calibration and the ability of the components to deliver the required data measurement must be ensured.
In the wake of data measurement by the UAV, the collected data are centrally merged, analyzed, processed and visualized. Depending on customer requirements for data processing and visualization extensive calculations are necessary. These calculations are based on the interpretation of video recordings, infrared images, magnetic wave images and laser scans obtained by the UAV in an overflight of a landscape area. As the UAV takes around 10 frames per second it produces very large amounts of data in very high resolution and the laser also provides extensive geo-positions by reflectance measurement method. Complex algorithms are computed for the derivation of 3-dimensional models out of the 2-dimensional imagery and laser-scan data.
HAvS product services around the UAV aims to provide not only the central provisioning of the specifications of data logging components for manufacturers and HAvS customers, but also the data measurement and storage of the recorded data as well as the subsequent data analysis, evaluation and visualization. Thus, HAvS required a system that at least meets the following requirements:
- flexible access to centrally available specifications and measurements for the component manufacturers and customers for the purpose of a collaborative coordination
- scalability of the storage volumes to store large amounts of data
- Customer and project-specific creation of test scenarios, including recovery and archiving for reproduction of test runs
- Usage depending on the amount of calculation of configurable computing resources
- On-Demand availability (pay-per-use)
For small and medium-sized companies these requirements translate into a large up-front investment regarding the IT resources for organizational and technical effort. Since the project business is constantly subject to fluctuations an advance assessment of the requirements is very difficult. Hence a system is needed, which can cover peak loads without binding investment in times of reduced orders.
Through Axtrion’s consulting cloud systems with their almost unlimited flexibility and scalability came up as a better alternative to conventional on-premises solutions for the high standards and the efficient use of IT resources in combination with the UAV. Also for the integration of customers and partners in the value-added processes to pursue approaches from the future project industry 4.0. For HAvS the combination of the UAV with the possibilities of cloud IT in creating and establishing product services presented a significant added value.
As an IT service provider Axtrion has built extensive expertise with regard to the efficient use of IT resources of Microsoft Azure in similar projects and was therefore the IT partner that could consult HAvS with regards to building product services based on Microsoft Azure and in its practical implementation.
To support the necessary coordination of the specification of the measured value recording systems that are to be integrated in the UAV, Axtrion has created a collaboration platform in form of a central database in Microsoft Azure. Both the component manufacturers as well as the HAvS customers have secure and project specific access to this platform.
Axtrion built an extensive network with multiple virtual machines in Microsoft Azure for the processing of the measured data. The flexible features for the machines, with a 2-128 GB of memory depending on the project and access to a central data storage with a memory capacity of several terabytes, allows the storage of extensive measurement data and flexible calculation of 3D topology models by working on parallel machines. Axtrion provided extensive consulting with regard to the UAV data provisioning about the memory resources of Azure and assisted in the installation of necessary software applications and realization of the Azure internal network topologies with very high bandwidth. Axtrion installed, adapted and tested the existing applications for calculation of 3D models from images and laser scanning data on the Azure virtual machines. This enabled the data transfer from the UAV towards the storage volumes in Azure with subsequent implementation of the data analysis, triangulations and data visualization.
This approach implements complete project-specific test scenarios consisting of hardware specifications, documentation, data recording, measurement results and the underlying analytical software and operating systems, and archives them by backing up the entire machine configurations.
Axtrion conducted user trainings and workshops for the system application in practice, where other applications for the successful use of Azure were also demonstrated and discussed.
By using Microsoft Azure HAvS has achieved the following benefits:
- A collaborative and secure access to centralized project data
- Access to almost unlimited scalable storage volumes for storing the measured values
- Data storage with automatic replication (5 times Replication in the Microsoft Data Center), data backup and data archiving to ensure the business continuity and recovery of test scenarios
- Use of advanced, scalable and high performance hardware and networks for parallel execution of time-consuming triangulations
- Minimization of IT costs by on-demand use of virtual machines, data storage and networks (pay-per-use)
With Microsoft Azure as a backbone HAvS can now offer product services that in addition to the UAV application include the entire process of project management, hardware specification, data logging, analysis, processing, evaluation and archiving of complete test scenarios to its clients.
Microsoft Azure provides us and our customers the flexible and scalable IT capacity that is hugely important for the handling of our projects and that is otherwise not affordable for us. Through the use of on-demand systems and pay-per-use cost model we were able to avoid the upfront investments.
Thanks to Axtrion we can now offer our customers a comprehensive range of product services around UAV. Axtrion showed us how cloud computing can be efficiently used for specific applications and can even lead to minimizing project costs.Michael Schmidt