I get asked a lot about how I discovered the Emesent Hovermap. The answer is one of my favorite stories, and the most memorable product demo I’ve ever had.
The following is all true . . . much of it captured on film.
In 2019-20 I spent five glorious months traveling the world filming NatGeo’s Buried Secrets of WWII, a six-part series in which we used technology to help answer questions about why certain WWII events occurred the way they did.
We shot one episode, one of my favorites, in Papua New Guinea.
The Kokoda Track (or Trail) winds its way from one side of Papua New Guinea to the other crossing over the Owen Stanley Mountains. A series of WWII battles occurred here that we were keen to bring to life as they are not a well-known.
We waited three days for the weather to break to helicopter into a site on the track way up in the Owen Stanleys. During that long wait there at the airport in Port Moresby I got to know Dr. Jeremy Sofonia PhD, Emesent’s chief pilot at the time.
One of the series’ producers had hired Emesent to be on site with us to capture LiDAR of a few sites we planned to investigate. I had heard of the Hovermap – but really only knew of it by name and the fantastic tales of the things it could do – many of which I didn’t believe.
Jeremy and I quickly became good friends. He’s up for anything, fearless, smart, and passionate about the Hovermap.
Once on site the plan was to get the Hovermap into the air on a DJI M600 and scan an area hoping to find WWII foxholes, fighting positions, etc. At 6000’ above sea level in triple canopy jungle, getting an M600 safely into the air was no small feat. Downright crazy really. But it worked. I put a DJI Mavic 2 Pro up to film what I could of the actual scanning process. In the show you can watch the fun.
The second flight however ended with the M600 / Hovermap in a tree. A 150’ tall tree that took the team a couple of hours to locate.
Imagine trying to find a drone in the top of a huge tree in a jungle! A jungle full of deadly snakes, poisonous plants and cassowaries – today’s velociraptor – known as the most dangerous bird in the world.
After a bit of debate as to how to recover the M600 / Hovermap the decision was made to cut down the tree. This decision was made by the locals who owned the land, and the tree. This never would have happened without their full support. What transpired next didn’t make the show and is my favorite part.
Locals erected a scaffold above the huge, buttressed base of the tree and set to work. When the tree finally let go and began to fall it spiraled in such a way that it fell on top of the drone. This after quite a bit of debate as to how/where to cut the tree so it would fall in such a way as to minimize damage to the gear.
I’ve seen some drone wreckage in my day but this was utter and total destruction. The Hovermap was still pulsing that royal blue LED, an indicator that it was alive and ready to scan. Jeremy, without blinking an eye, said, “Let’s see if we can get the data off of the Hovermap.” He did. It worked. The resulting data made the show. I could not believe it and decided right then and there I want to work with the Hovermap.
I remember telling Jeremy that no one will believe this. It’s all true and the Hovermap demo in the Owen Stanley Mountains of Papua New Guinea is the most amazing, memorable, impactful product demo I have EVER had . . . not to mention that I have ever heard of!
I’ve been using it ever since. It remains the most impressive bit of tech I’ve encountered in my career.