There are few hotter topics in the world of automated systems than unmanned vehicles and data fusion. During a demonstration flight in Dubai in September, Lockheed Martin showed how the two cutting-edge technologies could be combined to provide a powerful took to aid one of the UAE's most crucial business sectors: the construction industry.

The Indago—developed by Lockheed's Procerus subsidiary—is a small (5lb/2.3kg) fold-up quadcopter that has been trialled in firefighting roles in the U.S. and used by an Australian company during cyclone relief work in Vanuatu. Despite its size, the aircraft is capable of work at some range from its ground controller and, according to Lockheed, at altitudes up to 18,000 ft (though functionality at this range would probably require an improved antenna and military-grade datalink).

The demonstration involved video data from the aircraft being fed into a suite of 3-D mapping software developed by CDL Systems, a company acquired by Lockheed in 2012. The system creates computer models that accurately model the terrain, complete with natural and man-made objects.

The demonstration, which took place at the Meydan Hotel as part of the second Robotics Technology Exhibition, was for the time being a one-off. Restrictions on UAV flights in the UAE meant that the demonstration was largely restricted to horizontal mapping, but 3-D modeling of buildings via flights alongside tall buildings would be possible.

With Indago easily capable of reaching the top of every high-rise building in the Emirates, Lockheed believes that the system could be used to inspect tall buildings, and to produce accurate and easily updatable models of them while under construction. Clearance to use the aircraft on construction sites remains a challenge, but Lockheed is looking for in-country service providers to operate the service once the legal obstacles have been negotiated.