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Business

Komatsu, Orix to offer rent-a-drone service for Japan's surveyors

Package also includes image-processing software to help companies short on time, labor

Drones are likely to find greater use in Japan's construction industry as the country's labor shortage worsens.

TOKYO -- Construction machinery builder Komatsu and a unit of leasing group Orix have come together for a service to help smaller surveying companies start using drones to map terrain in three dimensions quickly and affordably.

Surveyors will enjoy access from October to a complete set of tools, including aircraft and related equipment as well as software for rapid processing of collected image data. The partners' goal is to sign up 300 corporate clients by next spring.

Industrial equipment rental provider Orix Rentec launched a drone rental business in April and has allocated three unmanned aerial vehicles for the new service. Komatsu will provide customers with newly developed software that can process the image data collected by the drone in around six hours -- less than half the usual time. The company developed the software as the first application for use with Landlog, a cloud-based platform for the construction industry jointly run with wireless carrier NTT Docomo and others.

The biggest problem facing Japan's construction industry is a shortage of workers -- a situation that will only worsen as demand swells ahead of the 2020 Olympics here and more engineers reach retirement age.

Komatsu launched its Smart Construction services in 2015 to help boost efficiency by integrating earthmoving equipment and information technology. Drones play a role in this effort by collecting 3-D terrain data. The company expects drones to find increasing use as labor shortages intensify in construction and elsewhere. It is keen on helping raise productivity by offering smaller businesses access to inexpensive and readily usable services.

Japan's infrastructure ministry is promoting its i-Construction initiative as a means of improving productivity in the construction sector with more IT and automation.

(Nikkei)

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