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Drones and Bridge Inspections – Changing the Process

Drones and Bridge Inspections – Changing the Process

Drones and Bridge Inspections – Changing the Process
Drones prove to be successful catalyst streamlining bridge inspections

In July, the MnDOT Office of Aeronautics and Aviation was recognized for a drone research project that also included the Office of Bridge and Structures and MnDOT Research Services. They were the recipients of a State Government Innovation award, which recognized creativity, collaboration, and efficiency.

The project, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAV) Bridge Inspection Demonstration Project, proved that using drones for bridge inspections improves safety, reduces work time, and lessens traffic disruption. For one kind of bridge, inspection time shrank from eight days to five.

Bridge inspection traditionally requires significant time and manpower. Closing down lanes on a bridge puts a strain on traffic; on smaller or remote bridges, the only option may be ladders or rope access (basically repelling off the edge of the bridge).

RDOIC became involved through our relationship with Collins Engineers, Inc., who is responsible for a lot of bridge inspection work for MnDOT.

Collins Engineers is very familiar with drones and their capabilities on bridge inspections. In Phase I of the project, they utilized a drone where the camera was suspended underneath the unit. For Phase II of the project, they determined that they needed a drone with additional functionality and capabilities. They found the albris by senseFly. Along with representatives from senseFly, our team was on site during the inspections and were even responsible for some of the flying. 

The benefits of the senseFly albris were noticed immediately. There was no need to close the bridge for traffic and no need for anyone to repel off the bridge. Utilizing the UAV enabled Collins to inspect the bridge up close and the high-quality imagery made identifying problem areas very straight forward.

Being involved with this project was a great learning opportunity. One of the highlights was watching the UAV impress everyone involved – as we completed the flights, everyone involved really began to realize how drones could truly help in the field and aid in safety and efficiency for both the inspectors and those utilizing the bridge.

UAV usage is expanding every day in new ways, shapes, and forms – industries that may not have initially seen a use for UAVs could soon be rethinking what UAVs could possibly make easier.

Learn more about this project here, and then read our Top 5 reasons to use a drone for bridge inspection.

Contact our experts for any questions you have regarding the use of drones in your next project. 


October 10, 2016  |  Category: UAV

Three Things You need to Know To Get Ready for Your Part 107 Test

Three Things You need to Know To Get Ready for Your Part 107 Test

Three Things You need to Know To Get Ready for Your Part 107 Test

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) new small drone rule –known as Part 107 – went into effect on August 29. If you’re confused by what Part 107 means to you, we’ve provided three key components to help make sense of it:

Understand the process.
The FAA clearly describes what to expect if you are an existing FAA Pilot or if you are starting from scratch. 

Free study materials online.
Sharpen those pencils! The FAA has a great online, free study material guide. You can also take the online course and even take a sample exam at the end.  

Find your test Location
Don’t be in the dark when it comes to finding your nearest testing facility. Check out the official list of FAA testing locations.

One unique service that RDO Integrated Controls offers is an FAA Compliance Package. These customers have access to an FAA consulting team, which includes a personal Ground School instructor available to answer your questions and guide you through your preparation, as well as keep customers informed about changes and announcements from the FAA and Part 107 Compliance tips and tricks.

To learn more about the RDOIC FAA Compliance Package, or for any UAV-related questions, contact us today.


August 29, 2016  |  Category:

To Rent or Buy?

To Rent or Buy?

Why You Shouldn’t Overlook Renting Machine Control & GPS Equipment

We’re in the heart of construction season, a time many companies are asking themselves if they need to rent or buy more equipment to meet project demands.

This same question is commonly asked when thinking of expanding GPS and Machine Control equipment. But with this type of equipment, the questions are a little more specific:

  1. What’s the amount of work ahead?
  2. What’s the current financial situation?
  3. What’s my cost of ownership vs. cost of renting?

GPS and Machine Control rental can be a very viable solution and add profit to your bottom line.

Here are the top 5 reasons for renting 3D Machine Control and GPS equipment:

  1. Equipment Trial: Would you buy a car without test driving it first? When you rent, you can test out one or several models to make sure you find the perfect piece to fit your needs.
  2. No Depreciation and Increased Borrowing Power: When renting, you don’t have to worry about annual depreciation associated with owning equipment. You can always rent the latest, up-to-date equipment in order to be more efficient on your jobsite. Reducing balance sheet liabilities will offer a better asset to liability ratio for your business.
  3. Up-to-Date Equipment: In order to succeed in today’s competitive environment and be as efficient as possible, you must have the latest equipment. Many businesses cannot afford to buy the equipment necessary to gain a competitive advantage and that’s where rental can be a great solution.
  4. Flexibility: With an extensive machine control rental fleet at your disposal, you can take on more projects that require a wider variety of equipment during peak times.
  5. No Capital Investment Needed: Rental expenses can be billed back to the customer or deducted annually as a business expense. Buying a piece of equipment, however, is a capital expense that must be treated as such when taxes are due.

If you have more questions about renting GPS or Machine Control from a trusted source like RDO Integrated Controls, contact us today.


August 8, 2016  |  Category:

Diving Into Drones

Diving Into Drones

Until recently, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, were primarily viewed as either a “cool toy” or the “latest and greatest” piece of technology only owned by the largest and most cutting-edge farms.

As the technology has become more accessible, drones can now be considered a practical business tool for all growers, including hay and forage producers.

Drones can, in a single flight, monitor crop health over hundreds or even thousands of acres. As a result, they’re enabling hay and forage professionals to spend less time on manual scouting and reacting to problems and more time proactively addressing field needs before major issues arise.

While UAS technology is appealing, many are wary because they feel they lack the skills to use one effectively in their business. Before making the leap into drone ownership, every grower should consider the following key areas: cost, regulations and personnel.

Cost considerations
There are several options for low-cost drones purchased from big-box retailers. While the low price tag may be attractive, these units are designed for recreational rather than professional use.

Software, high-quality cameras with the option to measure different bands of light, ease of use and overall durability often aren’t part of the package.

On the other hand, drones engineered for professional use are equipped with nearly everything needed to begin using them in a farming operation out-of-the-box. These units are engineered well, include flight-planning and image-processing software and often have great warranties and optional insurance plans.

When purchased at a reputable dealership, they also likely come with service and training from a knowledgeable product expert.

Flight safety should always be a priority, and it also helps to protect the investment. It’s important to consider personal safety, the safety of others that might be in the vicinity and the safety of the equipment.

Respect to regulations
Going hand-in-hand with safety, regulations are a significant part of UAS operations. Anyone who has paid attention to drones in the media has heard about the regulations that come with ownership. Because drones are classified as an aircraft, federal regulations set the requirements all operators must follow.

To be brought up to speed, take a look at the resources available from the FAA and RDOIC.

Proper personnel
The final consideration regarding UAS ownership is one often overlooked: personnel. This doesn’t necessarily mean adding more people to a team but could mean developing the right person or people to make it successful.

In order to achieve the maximum benefit of the technology, it’s essential that someone have the resources needed to learn to operate and manage the technology for a business.

All decision-makers should ask themselves the following questions prior to a drone purchase.

First: “Do I have the capability to manage this process myself?

  • If that answer is no: “Can one of my existing employees take ownership of this?
  • If you’re still unsure, the question may be: “Do I need to hire an expert or someone who can be trained to be an expert?”

From research to reward
No longer reserved for an elite group of professionals, UAS ownership can be a practical and smart move for all growers. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and surging popularity of these units, a tactical and thorough evaluation is still a must when deciding if drone ownership is the right decision for your business. 


Nate Dorsey is an agronomist with RDO Equipment Co.

With additional contribution from Matt Hayes, mapping/UAV product supervisor, and Bill Edmonson, UAV product specialist, both for RDO Integrated Controls and based in Billings, Montana.

To read the entire article, recently featured in Progressive Forage, click here.


July 26, 2016  |  Category:

How RDO Integrated Controls Creatively Solved a Wisconsin Landfill’s Connectivity Issues

How RDO Integrated Controls Creatively Solved a Wisconsin Landfill’s Connectivity Issues

If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Wisconsin in January is cold -- bitterly cold, with temperatures dipping to 20 below with wind chill. This fact was visibly apparent as members of our RDO Integrated Controls team exhaled clouds of conversation as we assessed the frozen garbage field. In the fading winter light, we planned our next move on where to place the two specially fabricated, solar powered radio-repeater stations. But these weren’t just any radio-repeater stations, they were a Rajant Radio 2.4 GHz wireless mesh system specifically tailored for Marathon County’s Bluebird Ridge Landfill; and RDOIC developed this solution while circumventing several formidable obstacles.

For landfills, Carlson Machine Control offers operators, engineers, and site managers the opportunity to omit traditional grade staking operations, increase garbage compaction efforts, and tighten up landfill slopes for federal (EPA) and state compliance standards. However, in order to produce the high accuracy of machine control, and take advantage of valuable data transfer, a combination of an Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio signal, and a cellular (for data transmission) connection are required. It’s a fairly standard way to approach the connectivity problem on any landfill. Yet, in Bluebird’s case, the RDOIC landfill team had to get technically creative.

The cellular connection at the Bluebird Ridge site was around 1x, too poor for data transmission, and terrible as a connection to a local online server for an accurate GPS position to the landfill’s heavy equipment. Brainstorming, we opted for a robust 2.4 GHz wireless mesh network for both data transmission and GPS/GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) positioning. The landfill’s working face, where all incoming refuse is deposited and spread in layers, was hidden in a thick forest of massive pine trees; an issue for the line-of-sight Rajant system. Our solution was to install several solar powered radio stands on the perimeter of the working face (Fig 1.).

This configuration allows the 2.4GHz signal to easily bounce from one antenna to the next, providing solid terrestrial data transmission and, most importantly, accurate GPS positioning. We then layered the repeater stations over a Google Earth map to show equipment operators and management how their transmission signal appears in relation to their work area.  

Since its winter integration, the landfill personnel have adapted to the Carlson Machine Control system. They like the functionality, ease of use and overall support they’ve received from RDOIC. Were we not able to use a multifaceted technology approach with this site, this project may not have been feasible. Using our commitment to being a total solutions provider, our customer was able to find the right tool for the right job.

A professionally ground-up-designed and executed RDOIC solar stand with radio box & panels situated atop an old “capped” landfill cell. We were not allowed to pierce in any way, so we built a flat-bottomed unit which rests on top of the capped cell, weighted down by more than 400 pounds of rock and cement.


The Marathon County Landfill GPS/GNSS and UHF Base Station with computer server, developed by RDOIC team member James Fields.

If you have questions about Carlson Machine Control, or how RDOIC can improve your business's efficiency, contact us today.


July 19, 2016  |  Category:

Processed Flight Data Formats Part 3: Animations and Triangulations

Processed Flight Data Formats  Part 3: Animations and Triangulations

Part 3: Animations and Triangulations | MPV, AVI, CSV
What’s what, and what is it for?

Welcome to Part 3 of our 3 part series on Pix4D and PostFlight Terra 3D digital outputs.  In this final segment, we cover Animation Outputs available and touch on the least visual of all the outputs - the CSV of X,Y,Z coordinate points in the point cloud.

An animation created by “flying through” the data set.  Although not usable for accurate measurements and meaningful volumes, these animated fly-throughs are popular for marketing, internal reports, and project overviews.  Managers can use these to share a visual representation of a site with employees, investors, or online in a website portfolio without the need for modeling software or a high power computer. The files are relatively smaller than a full resolution point cloud or triangulated mesh and are compatible on PC, Apple, and Linux operating systems. Data sets can be flown through as a point cloud or a mesh, as many times and at as many angles and speeds as desired for multiple versions. Animations can be exported as either MPV or AVI and can be edited in popular movie editing programs where music or narration can be added along with special graphics and scene transitions. You can create an animation using the animation tool in the Ray Cloud view.

Also referred to as an “XYZ” file, this text document containing individual point parameters, is not proprietary and can be read by any professional point cloud editing software. This large text document contains X,Y, and Z coordinates of every point in the cloud and can be exported in Space, Tab, Comma, and Semicolon format as a .xyz file. These are readable in Windows Notepad but often times need to be opened in Microsoft Excel and saved as a .csv before imported into point cloud editing software. Your XYZ file will organize the data for the points in this order even if you are using an arbitrary coordinate system with GCP’s in Y,X,Z otherwise known as;  Northing, Easting, Elevation. The XYZ file does not include RGB values so the point cloud derived from it will be monochromatic as a result.This short series serves as a starting point for expanding your photogrammetry processing potential. Our goal is to help you learn more about Pix4D and PostFlight Terra #3D output formats and to utilize all the flexibility UAV photogrammetry data can provide.

Missed Parts 1 or 2?
Part 1: 3D
3DPDF, DSM/DTM, Mesh, Point Cloud, Contours

Part 2: 2D:
GEO Tiff, KML/HTML, Map Box, Index Maps


June 27, 2016  |  Category:

FAA Part 107 Rules for Flying Drones was Just Finalized. What’s next?

FAA Part 107 Rules for Flying Drones was Just Finalized. What’s next?

On June 21, the FAA announced that Part 107 Rules for UAS (Drone) Operations in the National Airspace have been finalized.

The name of the operator's certificate required is "Remote Pilot's Certificate" and clients will need one to fly with Part 107 or their Exemption.

However, the new rules will not be implemented for 60 days, presumably in late August. Until then, you may consider the current operating rules unchanged, and use this window as a time to prepare.

Overall, this announcement has great benefits for the use of UAVs in agriculture, civil engineering, aggregate, and mining industries. It will now be easier for companies to become compliant to fly commercial UAVs.

Here are the highlights from today's announcements:

Getting the Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification for non-FAA Pilots

  • You may begin the Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification training online.
  • You may take the Knowledge Exam at an FAA testing Center once the Rule is implemented.

Getting Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification for current FAA Pilots

  • You may begin the Part 61 additional Remote Pilot Certification training online.
  • You do not need to take a Knowledge Test at a testing center, but must complete the online training course .

Current 333 Exemption Holders

  • Your FAA Pilot must complete the online Remote Pilot Certification training online before the implementation of Part 107.
  • Your 333 Exemption is still valid per the time period stated on it.

Pending 333 Exemptions

  • You will be notified by the FAA that you are in one of three tiers and be given options to continue or transfer to Part 107

TSA Approval

  • You will be required to be approved and vetted by the TSA in order to fly with a Remote Pilot Certification.

What are the final rules?

  • The FAA has posted a summary and a complete overview of the final rules, which will be implemented later this summer.

Want to Learn More?
Our experts at RDO Integrated Control offer an FAA Compliance Package as part of our Fleet Shield Services. This consulting service provides best practices, advice, and training on all topics covering compliance with the FAA, TSA, and local governments as they pertain to commercial drone flights. Contact us to learn more.

Helpful Links
Fact Sheet
Final Rules Summary
Final Part 107 Rules


June 21, 2016  |  Category:

Motor Grader 3DMC2 Measure-up & Calibration + BONUS White Paper Download

Motor Grader 3DMC2 Measure-up & Calibration + BONUS White Paper Download

“Does a degree make a difference?”

For anyone dealing with GPS systems, you already know the answer to this. In layman’s terms – yes, a degree can make a significant difference. But determining how that degree can alter accuracy with a 3DMC2 system is another story.

At the RDO Integrated Solutions Center, a team of highly-trained individuals provide solutions for Topcon, Carlson, Sokkia, and all other manufacturers sold and supported by our team.

With call volume growing each year (in 2015, they took more than 5,000 calls), the Solutions Center has heard – and answered – a lot of questions.

The number one topic they receive calls on, however, is a lot more specific than you might think:

Resolving a Northing, Easting, Elevation issue between a 3DMC2 Motorgrader System and a Survey Rover

To view more detailed, step-by-step instructions, including screenshots, click here to download the complete White Paper.

If you need help with 3D Modeling services, software activations or user access, and more, email us or call 877-90-RDOIC for a direct line to world class support.


June 13, 2016  |  Category:

Top 5 #RDOIC Blog Posts

Top 5 #RDOIC Blog Posts

Many feel the last weekend in May is the unofficial kick-off to summer. To celebrate the season’s transition, we took a look back at our most popular blog posts from the past few months. While this blog covers a variety of topics, including machine control, surveying, new products, and more, at its core is a focus on UAV technology solutions.

So it’s no surprise all but one of our Top 5 blog posts this year are drone focused.

As industry experts in UAV solutions from senseFly and Topcon, let us know what you want to learn about. Contact us with questions, ideas, or future topics we should cover. Until then, take a look back at some of the best.

#5: Complete Integration is here: Introducing John Deere’s 700K SmartGrade Dozer
Find out what’s so ‘smart’ about John Deere’s new SmartGradeTM Dozer. Gone are the mast and cables in a typical system – this unit boasts seamless integration.

#4: Big UAS Regulatory Changes from the FAA
When the FAA announced UAV regulatory changes to the blanket COA on March 28, we were quick to break down all the acronyms and provide the info you need.

#3: Aerial Targets and Drones – Be Prepared
Are you utilizing aerial targets and drones? The task of putting down aerial targets can be considered tedious but it doesn’t have to be. This post covers some key recommendations and best practices on utilizing targets.

#2: Generating Highly Accurate, 3D Data Using a senseFly Drone
In this popular post, we recap a senseFly project in which the senseFly albris (formerly eXom) demonstrates its capabilities and accuracy.

#1: Commercial Drone Compliance with Part 107
Our most popular article so far this year, we lay out the facts behind Part 107.

Learn more about the products and services provided by RDO Integrated Controls. Visit www.rdoic.com.


May 25, 2016  |  Category:

RDO Integrated Controls Helps Power DroneFocus Conf 2016

RDO Integrated Controls Helps Power DroneFocus Conf 2016

Last summer, 130 attendees gathered at the Fargo Jet Center for Fargo’s first annual Drone Focus Conference.

This year, the event is expected to double in attendance and will gather professionals and enthusiasts together to learn and share insight on the UAV industry on June 1st at The Stage at Island Park near Downtown Fargo.

RDO Integrated Controls, the technology division of RDO Equipment Co., is on board once again and helping power this year’s event as a premier sponsor.

Why You Should Attend
According to Emerging Prairie, the group who organizes the DroneFocus Conference, attendees can expect a full day devoted to learning, interacting, and playing. 

  • Learn: Experts in cyber security, aeronautics, autonomous vehicles, access spectrum and more lined up to drop some knowledge. The content varies from 3 minutes talks to no longer than 20 minutes, so you’ll be getting a buffet line of information throughout the day.
  • Interact: You will not spend this conference sitting in a chair. Break periods are woven throughout the event, intentionally so that attendees can meet who’s in the room and learn from each other.
  • Play: What’s the point of a drone conference without getting some hands-on drone action? This year, plans are in the works for a build-a-drone section, and live demonstrations of drone inventions by students from across the world.

What You Can Expect from RDO Integrated Controls
In the world of UAVs, our portfolio of products and systems are designed to create a more efficient and productive workflow for our customers. We’re excited to bring industry experts as part of the day’s lineup:

  • Matthew Hayes, Mapping Product Supervisor, RDO Integrated Controls: Matthew and his team at RDO Integrated Controls are dedicated to helping clients successfully utilize innovative mapping and UAV technology. At DroneFocus Conf, Matthew will highlight a brand new research project focused on renewable energy and civil application for UAVs.
  • Baptiste Tripard, Managing Director, senseFly:  Baptiste manages the distribution of SenseFly products in North America and is heavily involved in research and testing to bring new technology to market.  Baptiste will provide a high level overview of the UAV industry and what will be coming to market in the near future.
  • Jim Frank, President, ComAgUAS: Jim is the President of ComAgUAS. ComAgUAS exists to promote the professional use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in commercial and agriculture operations though leadership, certification, and advocacy. Jim will be discussing the role of this new trade association as well as its focus on operator’s certification and safety in this emerging sector.

We invite you to spend the day with us, focused on drones. Click here to purchase tickets, learn more about the presenters, and view the full agenda.

You can also check out a podcast, featuring an interview with Emerging Prairie's Greg Tehven talking drones, entreprenuers, and DroneFocus Conf. Take a listen.

Hope to see you there.


May 17, 2016  |  Category:

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