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FAA Announcement Raises UAV Blanket Altitude Authorization for Commercial Use

FAA Announcement Raises UAV Blanket Altitude Authorization for Commercial Use

We’re excited to share the latest news from the FAA:

March 29- After a comprehensive risk analysis, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has raised the unmanned aircraft (UAS) “blanket” altitude authorization for Section 333 exemption holders and government aircraft operators to 400 feet. Previously, the agency had put in place a nationwide Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for such flights up to 200 feet.
The new COA policy allows small unmanned aircraft—operated as other than model aircraft (i.e. commercial use)—to fly up to 400 feet anywhere in the country except restricted airspace and other areas, such as major cities, where the agency prohibits UAS operations.

“This is another milestone in our effort to change the traditional speed of government,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Expanding the authorized airspace for these operations means government and industry can carry out unmanned aircraft missions more quickly and with less red tape.”

The FAA expects the move will reduce the workload for COA applications for industry UAS operators, government agencies and the FAA's Air Traffic Organization. The agency also estimates the move will lessen the need for individual COAs by 30 to 40 percent. Other provisions of an FAA authorization, such as registering the UAS and making sure pilots have the proper certification, still apply.

Under the blanket COA, the FAA will permit flights at or below 400 feet for UAS operators with a Section 333 exemption for aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds and for government UAS operations. Operators must fly under daytime Visual Flight Rules, keep the UAS within visual line of sight of the pilot and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports:

  • Five nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower; or
  • Three NM from an airport with a published instrument flight procedure, but not an operational tower; or
  • Two NM from an airport without a published instrument flight procedure or an operational tower; or
  • Two NM from a heliport with a published instrument flight procedure.

Read the FAA’s complete release here.

What does this mean for our customers? Several things, actually, and all very positive for commercial drone users.
1. More airspace available for UAV Commercial Operations.
2. No more waiting for 60 day COA submission.
3. 200 additional feet of elevation to the “Blanket COA.”

Stay tuned for the latest drone news and updates, or contact us to learn more about how drones can help change the way you do business.


March 30, 2016  |  Category:

Practicing Simplicity – How RDOIC Can Help you add a Simple and Effective Drone/UAV System

Practicing Simplicity – How RDOIC Can Help you add a Simple and Effective Drone/UAV System

Whenever I demonstrate the senseFly eBee and albris drones to potential clients for RDOIC, people are most excited to see the drone fly and land. “Well that was cool!” is generally what spectators say afterwards. Flying is typically what most people think of when it comes to a drone. But the real fun is what comes next.

The aerial photos the drone snaps are combined into one giant mosaic photo. A mosaic image is tied to a project site similar to the design plan for building a project site. Seeing how the existing surface compares to a current design surface gets the greatest reaction. Suddenly, flying the aircraft is now considered the first step, and putting the data to use is the most exciting part of having a drone. Immediate and accurate data is crazy addictive. It is now absolutely necessary to reliably collect this information and becomes the new “normal” for the data users to merge it with their existing design platforms (Civil CAD, Vulcan, ArcMAP, etc).

Safety First
Any part of flying a drone (aircraft/radio setup and use, battery usage, flight time, camera use, cabling of accessories, flight software, even transport to the site) that’s difficult will not be tolerated for very long. Just like a passenger boarding a plane to arrive at a destination, the drone should be both simple to use and get you there directly, flight after flight. Simple site design in the flight software, easy assembly of the airframe, reliable autonomous flying and landing including built in fail-safe return to home redundancy, and the ability to handle some wind are expected. There may be six or eight flights that need to be done that day, not just one.

Expert Assistance
There are legal requirements in commercial drone ownership, like having an FAA exemption and a pilot. Our team at RDOIC helps prepare a standard application that is customized to assist a company with both the application process and follow-up paperwork for flying in certain areas after receiving the exemption. A drone has to be approved as an aircraft (unless it is already approved like the eBee and albris). RDOIC assists with the registration of the aircraft.  A pilot that is familiar with your system can be on retainer, or like many companies, you can grow a pilot from within (usually employees are more than willing to get their basic sport pilot license if sponsored by the company).

A simple and reliable drone system is not only efficient in itself but makes everyone who uses the data that much more valuable. Contact our team to learn how adding a drone to your business isn’t as complicated as you might think.


March 27, 2016  |  Category: UAV

Complete Integration is here: Introducing John Deere’s 700K SmartGrade Dozer

Complete Integration is here: Introducing John Deere’s 700K SmartGrade Dozer

The newest in John Deere technology was unveiled at World of Concrete in January. Sporting a graduation cap and boasting, “I’m a Genius,” many attendees were buzzing about the 700K SmartGradeTM Dozer.

But before making its Vegas debut, this unit had already been moving dirt in southern Minnesota for Mathiowetz Construction Company. An earthwork and construction management company, Matiowetz was contacted by John Deere to demo the newest technology.

What was their reaction?

Brett Mathiowetz, Assistant Project Management Team and GPS Manager, is in charge of bringing new technology to the company, so was eager to test out the SmartGradeTM Dozer.

“They’re taking it to another step and allowing that dozer to use sensing to see how it’s interacting with the ground and the earth that it’s moving and using that to further enhance the information you’re getting from GPS and the machine control side of things, and making it more of a single unit.”

At World of Concrete, Liz Quinn, Product Marketing Manager for John Deere, laid out the ‘smart’ behind the SmartGradeTM.

“It’s a fully integrated GPS grade control system into crawler platform. The monitor has been completely integrated into the John Deere cab. Most importantly, we got rid of the mast and cables typical in an aftermarket system.”

Learn more about the SmartGradeTM Dozer, (even more here), and check out what one of our team members has to say about this new piece of equipment. Want to learn more about this integrated solution? Contact us today.


March 22, 2016  |  Category:

North Dakota Continues as Technology Pioneer – This Time with Drones

North Dakota Continues as Technology Pioneer – This Time with Drones

It’d be difficult to miss the discussion of UAVs in North Dakota. In fact, the state is being heralded as the “Silicon Valley of Drones.” More and more companies are recognizing the possibilities that drones can provide them.

Recently at Drone Focus, a once-a-month meetup, industry leaders provided insight into their uses of UAVs. These Drone Focus meetings, organized by Emerging Prairie, are a time where users, businesses, and government officials can ask questions, discuss the technology and regulations, and learn and help one another. (Read full coverage of the February meeting here.)

Scott Schumacher (@RDOICScottS), Account Manager in Moorhead, MN, represented RDO Integrated Controls at the event and spoke about how the team is helping companies find new, unique uses for drones, like working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation on a bridge safety project (see more information about that project here).

“We’re happy to have a seat at the table to discuss how UAS technology makes our customers more efficient, productive, and profitable,” commented Scott.

There’s so much happening with UAVs not only in North Dakota, but across our entire footprint, and you won’t want to miss it. Check out all our recent drone blog posts and contact us to find out more.

And Save the Date for the 2nd annual Drone Focus Conference, happening June 1 in Fargo, ND. Back for its second year, this event will feature presenters from across the nation, local industry leaders, and technology innovators who will share insight on the growth, advancement, and future of the drone industry. RDO Equipment Co. is proud to return as an event partner.


March 14, 2016  |  Category: UAV

Processed Flight Data Formats Part 1 - What’s What and What Is It For?

Processed Flight Data Formats Part 1 - What’s What and What Is It For?

Anyone who has worked with photogrammetry processing tools Pix4D and PostFlight Terra 3D have noticed an abundance of output options. This short 3 part series will describe Pix4D and PostFlight Terra 3D outputs as a starting point for expanding your photogrammetry processing potential.

Part 1: 3D

A PDF that contains 3D data. 3D PDF documents are completely interactive (manipulated in 3 dimensions) and can be annotated and measured using the Adobe Reader and Acrobat applications.

DSM and DTM stand for Digital Surface Model and Digital Terrain Model. A DSM is a model of the earth’s surface.  A DTM is a model of the earth’s surface with vegetation and other objects removed revealing the terrain. The term “scrubbing to ground” is often used for the process of creating a DTM from a DSM using either Pix4D/PostFlight Terra 3D’s point cloud editing tools or software like Global Mapper.  Either can be displayed in monochrome or any number of color indexes used to delineate elevation. DSM outputs from Pix4D/PostFlight Terra 3D are; .las, .laz, or .xyz.

A 3D Triangulated Mesh is a collection of vertices that define the shape of an object. Pix4D/PostFlight Terra 3D allow you to apply a mesh to a densified point cloud. Typically a mesh is used to see the shape of a data set since it fills in the gaps between points. Triangulated Mesh outputs from Pix4D/PostFlight Terra 3D are; .ply, .las and 3D-PDF.

Point Cloud
A Point Cloud is a set of data points arranged in a three dimensional coordinate system.  Points in the cloud are relative positions defined by x,y and z coordinates. The point cloud is the main data set used for creating all the 3D outputs in Pix4D/PostFlight Terra 3D. Point Cloud outputs from Pix4D/PostFlight Terra 3D are; .las .laz .ply and .xyz.

Contours represent terrain via a series of lines that delineate relief and relative elevation. Contours can be generated in a variety of resolutions and line spacing. Typically the contour map is the most important element in any cartographic representation of terrain. Triangulated Mesh outputs from Pix4D/PostFlight Terra 3D are;  .SHP, .PDF, and Auto CAD DXF/DWG

Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 in the next few weeks!

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

Part 3: Animations and Triangulations:

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding your UAV data, contact us today.


March 3, 2016  |  Category:

Expert advice on Topcon’s mmGPS System

Expert advice on Topcon’s mmGPS System

The United States has roughly 2.3 million miles of paved roads – and approximately 250 million vehicles and extreme weather conditions, which create an ongoing need for paving projects.

With businesses receiving incentives for smoother pavements, relying on dated string line technology costs time and bottom-line dollars.

The ability to check the precision of the machine in real time achieves more than any traditional paving operation could do, with twice the man power in half the time. Learn more about 3 key benefits of Topcon’s paving system.

1. Cut Costs
With the Topcon mmGPS system, the end user can greatly reduce costs by minimizing materials, labor, and accessibility to equipment and material. By eliminating string lines, the end user can reduce survey and engineering costs and the manpower to set up, check, and tear down the tedious and not-always-reliable string line industry standard. 

2. Improve productivity
Topcon mmGPS has the ability to move from machine to machine throughout the advancement of the project. Starting with a motor grader equipped with mmGPS, the sub grade can be prepared from multiple directions and also multiple machines can be run off the same transmitters.

The Topcon mmGPS can be easily moved to concrete or asphalt pavers for final surfacing. During the paving process, the mmGPS machine and the survey rover are used to ensure surface accuracy without having to stop progress.

3. Ensure reliability
Topcon mmGPS has six major components:
a) Topcon PZL Laser Transmitter
b) PZS GPS Rover Receiver
c) GPS Base Station
d) PZS MC Sensor
e) MCR3
f) GX60 Control Box 

The laser technology in the PZL transmitter creates a 30 foot high signal of precision elevation control that can sweep out to a 1,800 foot area. The Laser Zone sensors, either on a rover pole or machine mast, compute precise elevation measurement anywhere within the laser zone. Multiple transmitters can be used simultaneously to achieve more than 4,000 foot nonstop precision. What’s this mean for users? Unparalleled reliability and accuracy.

Look to RDO Integrated Controls and innovative Topcon solutions to upgrade your paving system. Contact us today.


March 1, 2016  |  Category: