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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:

Want High Quality Road Construction? Here’s Why Intelligent Compaction is the Answer

Want High Quality Road Construction? Here’s Why Intelligent Compaction is the Answer

When it comes to roadway construction, compaction is one of the most important processes. It’s important in order to achieve high quality and uniformity of pavement materials. And focusing the right resources and effort on getting that high quality and uniformity ensures long-lasting performance in the long run. This can be done through intelligent compaction technology.

Intelligent Compaction 101
Intelligent compaction (IC) uses modern vibratory rollers equipped with an integrated measurement system, an onboard computer reporting system, GPS based mapping, and other optional feedback. This technology facilitates real-time compaction monitoring so that compaction of road materials like soil, aggregate bases, or asphalt pavement materials can be completely compacted.

5 Benefits of Using Intelligent Compaction
If you want to make every pass count when you’re working on your compacting project. Intelligent compaction technology allows you to do just that. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Reduced Variability: In order to ensure adequate support, ability, and strength, pavement needs to be compacted to optimum densities. IC improves the in-depth density of pavement materials, reducing variability of measured density. This ultimately allows for long-lasting roadways.
  • Improved Productivity and Depth: Since intelligent compaction systems are designed to operate at the best effort possible, compaction is much more efficient. This means fewer roller passes and better results. IC also stands above conventional rollers by using technology designed to optimize rollers’ compact effort, allowing for improved depth performance, too.
  • Reduced Cost of Repairs: Did you know that poor compaction is one of the biggest factors in premature pavement failure? Poor compaction practices also significantly raise highway repair costs. By using intelligent compaction technology, contractors minimize repairs and improve overall pavement performance, making the investment last longer in the long run.
  • Smart Stiffness Measurement: To get the most effective compaction possible, IC measures stiffness during the compaction process. This means contractors have instant identification of weak areas and can avoid harmful over-compaction and other errors.
  • Real-Time Identification: Individuals can easily use IC to identify weak spots or defective projects. With this identification and real-time information, users have the opportunity to make quick decisions during the compaction process, and informed choices for next steps.

Intelligent Compaction Made Easy
A good compacting job isn’t as easy to achieve as some people think. But with the correct equipment and technology, you can implement your own IC system in no time. At RDO Integrated Controls, our Topcon compaction and tracking system provides real-time pass graphic visibility so you have increased quality and efficiency, pass registration and visualization, and combine compaction and the site production data you need.

Ready to increase your productivity for your road construction project? Check out more information on Topcon compaction and tracking system products.


May 10, 2016  |  Category:

Processed Flight Data Formats. Part 2: 2D

Processed Flight Data Formats. Part 2: 2D

What’s what, and what is it for?

Welcome to part 2 of our 3 part series on Pix4D and PostFlight Terra 3D digital outputs. In this segment, we will take a look at the “2D” outputs available. We are blurring the line between 2D&3D since a few of these are displayed on a 3D object and they all describe a 3D space. The key difference is that these do not inherently contain visible elevation data. As mentioned in Part 1:3D, we invite you to use this short series of articles as a starting point for expanding your photogrammetry processing potential.

Part 1: 3D 3DPDF, DSM/DTM, Mesh, Point Cloud, Contours
Part 2: 2D: GEO Tiff, KML/HTML, Map Box, Index Maps
Part 3: Animations and Triangulations: MPV, AVI, CSV

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

GEO Tiff A standard “Tiff” image which includes geospatial data. The potential for the geospatial data in this file can be used for map projections, coordinate systems, and everything necessary to be an exact spatial reference. GEO Tiffs can be used to make accurate measurements between objects within the image and can represent exact position on a geospatial plane. GEO Tiffs generally contain a straight down “Nadir” view and are not used for elevation measurements. Warning: Pay attention when saving a GEO Tiff with a standard image processing tool like Photoshop. This could erase the metadata geospatial information and render your GEO Tiff  a basic Tiff. You can create DSM and OrthoMosaic GEO Tiffs in the level three Local Processing options menu.

KML/HTML You can Share KMLs using map apps like Google Earth online. KML stands for Keyhole Markup language. Once loaded into Google Earth, a KML sticks to the surface of the earth and displays the same way the Google satellite data does and in the geographically correct location, but it is much more crisp and detailed than Google’s satellite imagery. Once loaded, you may add layers of poly lines, markers, make measurements, etc. An HTML version is also created when you choose to make Google Tiles. An HTML displays your data in the 2D Google Maps platform in a web browser. Generate KMLs and HTML files in the level three Local Processing options.

Map Box is powerful online mapping visualization tool. Consider Map Box to be your custom Google Earth that includes your own branding and layered maps. This program has a bit of a learning curve to get started but is very powerful for showing projects over time, seasonal agriculture NDVIs,etc. Map Box .mbtiles are generated in level three Local Processing.

Index Maps Used for visualization of agriculture data, thermal data, or otherwise invisible spectrum imagery. Index Maps can be generated as GEOTiff’s, .jpgs, KMLs, or .shp files, and are used to assign color sets to data for easier relative visualization of information. Bands of color represent data ranges like temperature or infrared reflectivity from plant life. Index maps are generated in level three Local Processing in the Index Map calculator panel.

Stay tuned for our final part in the series, Part 3: Animations and Triagulations. If you have any questions about photogrammetry or UAVs in general, don’t hesitate to contact the RDOIC team.


May 4, 2016  |  Category:

Waste Not Want Not: Municipal Landfill Sees Benefit of Carlson’s LandfillGrade System

Waste Not Want Not: Municipal Landfill Sees Benefit of Carlson’s LandfillGrade System

According to the US Census Bureau, the current U.S. population is roughly 319 million. And while these 319 million residents have a number of distinguishing, sometimes unique, characteristics which link and separate them, one of the overarching commonalities we all share is our ability to generate garbage.

Today, our garbage, or Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), is collected and deposited into highly engineered facilities known as landfills. Gone are the city dumps of the early 19th century where rainwater would regularly wash uncovered pollutants from unlined holes into our lakes and streams. Now, every day these membrane-lined landfills receive, layer, compact, and cover municipal waste in specially designed pits or cells. And, each engineered cell must be filled according to the permitted design file in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations; failure to comply will certainly result in substantial fines.

RDO Integrated Controls has been offering a solution to landfill managers in the form of GNSS and GPS technology. In short, GPS technology allows landfill managers to pivot from the costly, labor intensive and fairly inaccurate practice of driving wooden stakes into the landfill for grade reference. For the past several years, the RDOIC team has been showcasing the Carlson Software GPS LandfillGradeTM System to municipal and privately run landfills. Once installed, landfill managers quickly see significant improvement in the form of tighter, more accurate slopes, and better overall waste compaction.

With this in mind, Account Manager Michael Schmaltz approached the municipal landfill for the City of Minot, ND, and offered them a chance to greatly improve their site’s operational profile. Mike coordinated a product demonstration with the City Sanitation Superintendent, installing the Carlson GPS system on their landfill compactor. For several weeks, Mike worked closely with the landfill team; checking the surface of the landfill, swapping out a base with UHF radio, training operators on the equipment, checking software connection status, and generally managing the project from the front.

After several weeks of running the Carlson system on their landfill, the equipment operators and management staff could easily see improvements to their engineered slopes. These improvements translated to improved management of their incoming waste stream, increase in trash compaction, and more control of the site’s landfill-water-runoff – all regulatory hot button items.

The Carlson LandfillGradeTM System quickly proved its worth: the return on investment was proven in how fast the equipment operators integrated the new technology into their daily compacting activities, and how rapidly that integration positively transformed the landfill surface. More importantly, the service and support aspect of the product demonstration, from beginning to end, was the shining example of how our team approaches landfill customers. The technology side, paired with Mike’s commitment to training and supporting the landfill, has set the bar high and demonstrated one of our company’s Core Values: Build Customers for Life.

In summary, as RDO Equipment Co. and RDO Integrated Controls build future business opportunities using innovation, technology, and strategic thinking, we’re never far from the roots of what has made us successful in the first place – our team members’ personal commitment to our customers.

Finally, though landfills are not the most attractive workplace on the planet, they’re an integral part of any municipalities’ infrastructure. It’s clear that we’re committed to our landfill customers, ensuring they’re afforded with the latest in technology advancements.


April 26, 2016  |  Category:

Aerial Targets and Drones – Be Prepared

Aerial Targets and Drones – Be Prepared

One of the important differences between a drone being a tool or a toy is the ability to produce accurate data. The principle way to produce accurate topo, point cloud, photographic data is to tie it to the ground through the use of aerial targets. The targets match the features in the collected data to known ground coordinates which rotate, scale, and elevate the data. The corrected data from the drone is now considered accurate. The measurements can be repeated by others at the site using those same target reference points.

Target How To
The task of putting down aerial targets can be considered tedious but it doesn’t have to be.  Here are some recommendations and best practices when utilizing targets:

  1. Each manufacturer of commercial drones has a “How To” on what targets to use and where to put them.
  2. The preparation of the targets and the locations can be done well in advance of a flight. I use Google Earth to look over the boundary of the proposed area to be flown.
  3. You can create an area and determine distance between points while checking to see where the trees are. Placement of the targets will usually need to change over time though. The original targets are usually placed where they won’t be disturbed but sometimes are. Having a few extra targets in the bed of the pickup truck is always handy. They can be placed “On the Fly” and picked up after the flight. You will have to get them measured before you pick them up, usually as soon as you place them with the site survey GPS system, but not necessarily before the flight. You can add the coordinates for the targets in the processing software after the flight if the rover is tied up but you want to fly now. I know some who place a large “+” on the ground with inverted marking paint and a nail in the center. The point being to be prepared and have a few extra targets when needed. There may be a new low point in a pit or a high wall area that you want to be sure to account for. The target may only be there as a check point.  Hover the mouse pointer over the target to see if the correct values were generated when compared to a direct measurement.

As companies get used to using a drone, they will expect the immediate gratification speed at which they gather information to become the norm. It would be unfortunate and a little costly if a flight crew had to go back to fly the site again, for the same information, with better target placement. So be a good “scout,” plan the area, be prepared with a few extra targets, and get it done right the first time.


April 19, 2016  |  Category:

How GPS Surveying Can Benefit Your Next Project

How GPS Surveying Can Benefit Your Next Project

If you are not currently using GPS (Global Positioning System, the US satellite system) technology, you should take a moment and reconsider. Faster results, increased productivity, and improved accuracy are all benefits you may be leaving on the table.

GPS is now a well-established tool in use all over the world. There are two major systems in play today: the US GPS and Russian GLONASS; and several more are coming online soon, including the Chinese Beidou, European Galileo, and systems from India and Japan. While GPS has come to refer to all these systems, for convenience and clarity, they are collectively referred to as GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems). Beyond the GPS you know in your car or phone, GNSS is providing positioning data that are unmatched for their accuracy and reliability, and here’s how.

  1. Save time and money. GPS data can be gathered at a rate that makes conventional data collection seem antiquated. As fast as the operator can walk, pause, press a key to record, and then move along, data can be collected. No more waiting for the instrument operator to find the prism, dial precisely, take the measurement, receive the information from the rodman on coding, and signal the rodman to move on to the next point. This high rate of data collection is achieved with one less employee, further reducing costs.
  2. Increased productivity. Many of us remember running traverses for the first few days of a survey. With GPS, those days are a memory. Conventional methods required traveling in short leaps, limited by line-of-sight and magnification, while GPS is limited by radio signal strength and computational rigor. Since GPS does not rely on interconnected, intervisible stations painstakingly observed by highly trained crews, less trained operators can establish high precision control over vast areas with relative ease by observing remote stations for shorter periods.
  3. Improved accuracy. The data collection process is further enhanced by the process by which observations are made. In conventional surveying, a single error can result in the loss of a day’s work. One bad back sight, or slipped lower motion, can provide seemingly endless amounts of strife while the cause is rooted out, if it is discovered at all. GPS observations are made over time, from a continuous flow of data, and errors in one observation, do not carry over into the rest. With a bad initialization rate of 1 in 10,000, and advanced computing filters, errors are generally confined to human errors and rare “bad shots,” both of which can be mitigated by simple field methods.

In today’s workplace, ignoring an established technology that provides labor cost savings, an increase in production rate, inherent accuracy that far surpasses conventional methods, and is usable by operators with significantly less training is simply poor business. The old adage that, “you can have your choice of fast, accurate, and cheap, but you can only have two” is fading into the past. It is time to take a closer look at what you are missing.

Learn more about the GPS solutions our team can provide and contact us to get started. 


April 12, 2016  |  Category:

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