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PDG aerial survey

PDG Aviation Services Case Study: Taking data technology to the skies

PDG Aviation Services

Established in 1995, PDG Aviation Services have grown to become the leading onshore operator of helicopters in the UK. Whilst they provide a wide range of services, most of the organisation’s contract work is in the aerial survey sector, a part of the business that has grown significantly over the last 10 to 15 years.

The Challenge

PDG engaged with The Data Lab in 2021. They were seeking assistance ahead of building a new data driven asset integrity management solution.

“Essentially, we want to improve the data flow from start to finish, consolidate some of our activities, have a complete integrated package of services, and deliver that information in a portal”, explained Brian Paterson, PDG’s Utilities Division Manager.

PDG’s existing bespoke systems were built on ageing technology and are difficult (and thus costly) to modify. Meeting new customer requirements required a complicated work around. The team wanted to introduce a modern software platform that would enable a more comprehensive customer service to be delivered at a lower cost. Since their team use different software for each industry sector, a future aim is to replace these multiple systems with one new one.

Given the challenges that had resulted from using externally owned software platforms, PDG were clear that ownership and control of the proposed platform was kept in-house.

The Solution

PDG presented an extensive requirements document to drive project discussion. Due to their lack of in-house software development capabilities, it was important for TORCH to identify the most appropriate way to help establish this skillset in PDG, and enable platform development that could meet the evolving needs of their clients. It was critical for TORCH to find a way of building a system to the required level of quality, in a reasonable timescale, for an affordable price.

Brian Paterson added, “Rhona (TORCH’s Principal Solutions Architect) has been really helpful. She pointed out the pros and cons of bringing on a whole team with the right skills. We spoke about building the project fully in-house and she laid down all the costs. We didn’t really appreciate just what would be involved in that before TORCH”.

TORCH recommended that PDG explore working alongside established external suppliers to develop a prototype platform solution. This method could run in parallel to building on the organisational structure and approach that PDG wanted going forward. Working with an external supplier (with proven experience and capability) would enable the platform development to get started whilst longer-term organisation decisions were made.

PDG helicopters

The Outcomes

Following development sessions with TORCH, PDG chose to follow the recommended route, prompting TORCH to make introductions to 3 members of the TORCH Supplier Network; all suppliers who had relevant experience and expertise to meet PDG’s requirements.

Jerry Francis, CEO of PDG, said: “There’s a tendency in the software industry, where you approach people and they suck you in to a particular path of development, and you don’t really know any better. You can’t look at it objectively, because you don’t have the expertise. And, that’s where Rhona and TORCH came in. We knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t know how to get there.”

What’s Next?

After shortlisting 2 of the suppliers and considering detailed proposals from both, PDG have chosen to work with Pulsion Technology on their platform development project. It’s been an exciting kick-off for Pulsion, as they take to the skies for a quick flight to learn how the existing software works. This short adventure will give the Pulsion team an understanding of how flexible the new software needs to be and truly bring the brief to life.

Speaking about their experience with TORCH, PDG told us,
We got a feeling the whole way through that Rhona really understood what we were trying to do, and she seemed really excited about it as well. That really makes a difference. We’d be 6 months behind where we are without the knowledge, connections, and experience she brought to the table. She was never overbearing; it was about getting us to focus on what we wanted, and then assisting us in making the right decisions.

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