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RDO INTEGRATED CONTROLS BLOG - December, 2016


Leap Second - What, Why?

Leap Second - What, Why?

As you celebrate the end of 2016 and the clock counts down this year New Year’s Eve – you’ll need to add one more second. International Earth Rotation and Reference System Service (ERS) announced there will be an extra second added to the end of this year, so clocks will read 23:59:60 on December 31, 2016. These leap seconds are occasionally needed to ensure Coordinated University Time (UTC), the official measure of time, stays in sync with changes in the Earth’s rotation.

Universal Time
UTC or Universal Coordinated Time is the combination of Universal Time (UT1) and International Atomic Time (TAI – in French – Time Atomic International – The Standards Bureau is in Paris, France).

UT1 (Universal Time), also known as Astronomical Time - is the time it takes for the Earth to rotate on its own axis. It is easy to come to the conclusion that the Earth’s rotation is constant. However, it actually fluctuates slightly due to a variety of reasons such as wind, the friction of tidal currents flowing along the bottom of the oceans, ocean currents in general, and the motions of the Earth’s fluid core. Currently, the length of a day is about 2 milliseconds (two one-thousandths of a second [0.002 of a sec or 2 milliseconds] in 200 years) longer than it was in the early 1800’s.

Who or what cares? GNSS systems care about UTC - because they use timing to calculate position.

The UT1 part of the UTC solution loses about 2 seconds per 1000 days in relation to the TAI.

International Atomic Time (TAI) is the second element of the UTC. TAI is the output of 200 highly precise [0.000000001 seconds – (known as a nanosecond) per day] atomic clocks worldwide. These clocks are very precise, even more precise than the rotation time of the earth.

To keep the UTC within 0.9 seconds of the UT1 - leap seconds are periodically added to the UTC. There have been 25 leap seconds added to the UTC since the current system began in 1972. They are applied on either June 30th or December 31st.

What does this mean for TOPCON GNSS Users?
Several of these leap seconds have occurred since Topcon has been utilizing GNSS for positioning solutions. Currently, Topcon has firmware upgrades available for the current GNSS receivers. However, many of the older units will not get a firmware upgrade for the upcoming leap second.

How will this affect your operation?

  1. It may cause you to have to clear the NVRAM on January 1st.
  2. It might take a bit longer to initialize.
  3. There might be a few older receivers that this leap second will cause to become inoperable.

It is hard to predict since there is a very precise oscillator (clock) on the GNSS boards that uses the UTC time signal from the satellites. If this oscillator, or clock, is close to the limits - then this one-second change could push it over the limit of functionality. If so, your system will not be able to initialize.

Our Solutions Center and team of experts are available to answer any questions you may have related to the leap second. Contact us via email or phone (877-90-RDOIC).

 

December 22, 2016  |  Category:

From the Ground Up to Scaling Up

From the Ground Up to Scaling Up

A dozen individuals from 10 states in industries spanning general construction to roadbuilding, mining to emergency response, engineering, and surveying – what could they possibly all have in common?

On October 13 and 14, at a rural farm site near Billings, Montana, this group of professionals came together to participate in an event focused on one popular topic: Drones.

Led by the team from RDO Integrated Controls, 12 seasoned drone experts, across numerous industries, gathered to be part of a unique event and pioneering experiment in the drone world. An event and experiment devised from simple conversations between Sean Erickson, Technology Support Specialist with RDO Integrated Controls, and a few of his customers, drone leaders in their respective fields.

Setting the Scene
RDO Integrated Controls sells and supports senseFly, a leading UAV manufacturer, and its eBee and albris drones. With the level of expertise and leadership it provides to professionals interested in UAV technology, RDO Integrated Controls makes it a mission to have a knowledgeable team dedicated to this area, as well as resources customers need to successfully implement drones in their businesses.

Erickson had received a request from a customer to create a “how-to” type document based on drone applications. After thinking about it and discussing the concept with a few veteran drone customers, Erickson had a spin-off idea.

“Instead of creating a document with info, tips, and best practices, I started thinking, what if we held an event that would bring together drone experts across different industries to talk about applications, discuss ideas, and share knowledge,” he said.

Erickson began pitching the idea to experienced drone customers, particularly those with hundreds of flights under their belts. As interest grew and discussions continued, ideas started snowballing. One idea, in particular, became the basis on which the entire drone event would be based.

eBee to the 10th
“I knew there were cases of companies putting multiple drones in the air at one time,” Erickson said. “But I hadn’t seen a fully-coordinated drone mapping mission with multiple aircraft.”

Theoretically, Erickson was certain a planned multi-drone mission would work. And he felt the event would be an opportunity to put his theory to the test.

“At first, we thought about trying to fly two drones simultaneously,” Erickson said. Some customers were already doing this regularly so he then thought about going for five. Then, Erickson said, the thought was, “If we can do five, why not go for 10?”

Furthermore, 10 was an easy number to show scale and thus, 10 eBees flying simultaneously became the final goal for the event.

An event that had shaped up as an opportunity to prove Erickson’s original theory.

An event that had several drone professionals eager to take part in this first-time experiment.

An event, which became known as the eBee to the 10th, that was about to come to life.

Bringing It All Together
Day one of the eBee10 was focused on discussions about all-things in UAV industry including field gear, Part 107 testing, and data processing. Every attendee brought a unique topic to present, a format Erickson devised as a way to steer clear of lecture-style learning and instead encourage discussions and sharing of knowledge between attendees.

It was on the morning of day two that the experimental mission was scheduled. But before the group could head out into the field and test Erickson’s theory, the flight plan had to be finalized.

“Late on Thursday night I, my colleague, Dennis Louton, and two of our attendees, Dennis Ryan of Vertical Sciences, Inc., and Jordan Kessel of Baranko Brothers, Inc., created the flight plan,” Erickson said. They continued work into the early morning hours, testing the plan in the simulator and tweaking it until they had the final, working flight plan.

The following morning, Erickson and Ryan presented the plan to the team, at which time Erickson said he gave all attendees the chance to withdraw from the experiment.

“I knew what we were doing was unprecedented,” he said. “If, after seeing the plan and simulation, anyone felt it was too risky, I wanted them to have the opportunity to bow out.” Instead, the group was more excited than ever, and at 9 a.m. they headed to the site.

The test site was a private farmstead with 125 acres of mapped flight area. Erickson arranged permission to use the site while Dennis Ryan, as air boss, filed the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) as well as notified the local air tower of all details related to the test, including closing out the NOTAM when the mission was complete.

The launching and landing was done in two groups of five drones. After the first group launched, the second was launched a few seconds later, and all 10 were in the air simultaneously performing a single mapping mission, and controlled by a unified Ground Control Station. Five pilots were responsible for launching, landing, and observation, while five controlled the flight plan via onsite computers. Erickson was onsite safety office and Louton served as logistics officer, providing equipment and technology support. Radio communications kept the pilots in touch with each other and the local air tower.

The result? The eBee drones flew the flight plan, which covered 125 acres in seven minutes.

“It was quick and effective,” Erickson said of the experiment. “We showed that 10 drones could execute a flight plan simultaneously.”

Assessing Impact
While Erickson’s experiment proved what he originally set out to do, it also demonstrated another important concept: scalability. He explained, “To see 10 drones cover 125 acres in just seven minutes, shows that it’s possible to cover 1,000 acres in one hour. That’s huge.”

Generally speaking, a single UAV can map about 100 acres per hour. Substantial, for example, when comparing the time spent for a crop scout to walk fields or a crew to survey a jobsite. But to show the significance of the scalable opportunity provided by multiple drones, Erickson used an example of an emergency response scenario.

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Imagine a disaster of such magnitude today. It would require a full-scale emergency response plan, which could include UAV technology; for example, searching for survivors using heat-mapping capabilities of drones.

See below to see the scalability opportunity with drones in this scenario:

640:                Acres in a Square Mile
170:               Square Miles (Land) of the city of New Orleans
108,800:        Acres in the city of New Orleans

1,088:            Approx. hours it would take one UAV to map the city
45:                 Approx. days it would take one UAV to map the city (assuming 24-hour days)
108:              Approx. days it would take one UAV to map the city (assuming realistic 10-hour days; daylight)

108:              Approx. hours it would take 10 UAVs to map the city
4.5:               Approx. days it would take 10 UAVs to map the city (assuming 24-hour days)
10:                Approx. days it would take 10 UAVs to map the city (assuming realistic 10-hour days; daylight)

It’s easy to see the potential impact of a multi-drone flight in this type of scenario.

And certainly this shows possibilities for companies of all sizes to grow with the ability to get more done, faster, using multiple drones. But, Erickson also took into consideration the hidden value in these results. How could this info apply to construction, roadbuilding, or engineering companies not necessarily looking to grow or interested in trying to operate multiple drones?

One example he noted was in partnerships between companies saying, “A construction company, an engineering firm, and a surveyor could team up for a project that they, individually, may not have been able to do.” This co-op model he describes would enable small companies to win projects against larger, full-service companies, potentially opening the doors to new clients and diversification of services.

Next Steps
While the event has ended, Erickson says his and his colleagues’ work is far from over. As he has begun analyzing the flight data from the eBee10, he has already found some areas that could be improved – likely, in the eBee10: Version 2.

“Yes, we definitely plan to hold another event like this,” an enthusiastic Erickson said.

Until that date, Erickson has stayed in touch with all engaged customers via a MeetUp website. Both eBee10 attendees and customers who were interested but unable to make it to the event have access to the site, designed with Erickson’s original goal in mind – to bring together drone experts to talk about applications, discuss ideas, and share knowledge.

To say UAV technology is affecting the world is an understatement. Across numerous industries, drones are making work safer, faster, and more accurate than ever imaginable. As knowledge continues to grow, so too will the possibilities – and opportunities.

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For more information on drones for use in agriculture, construction, and other industries, contact the team at RDO Integrated Controls.

 

December 14, 2016  |  Category:

5 Reasons the TopNETlive Expansion is Important

5 Reasons the TopNETlive Expansion is Important

RDO Integrated Controls has completed its fourth Topcon TopNETlive network station in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and activated its 15th network station across the state of Minnesota. This news follows months of hard work; in April, RDO Integrated Controls expanded the TopNETlive network into five new states: Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

The growth and expansion of the network has a major impact on customers who rely on TopNETlive as part of their daily business. It allows users to connect to a true VRS network when available and provides the option to select a single baseline RTK correction in an area where signal quality is degraded. Subscribers have the ability to connect quickly to a reliable network with 24/7 accessibility, and there are no bases for users to set up and localize on their own.

For those in industries such as surveying, construction, agriculture, and GIS who aren’t yet utilizing the network but are interested in the opportunity, here are five reasons why this latest TopNETlive expansion is significant.

1. More Coverage
By adding a fourth network station in the Twin Cities, TopNETlive coverage increases to 80% of the entire metro area.

With the 15th station now active in the state, Minnesota has added full network coverage to major cities including Duluth, International Falls, Mankato, Marshall, Moorhead, Rochester, and Virginia. These cities were previously not covered by the network but now offer complete coverage.

2. Largest Network
In addition to the expansion into Minnesota, RDO Integrated Controls offers TopNETlive coverage in California, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

The added coverage builds on the existing network already established in 19 other states, making TopNETlive the largest network in the country with more than 700 reference stations.

3. Unmatched Offerings
There isn’t another network out there with the national coverage, reliability, and accuracy in machine control as offered with TopNETlive.

Furthermore, Topcon Positioning Systems works closely with RDO Integrated Controls to provide advice on network design, antennae installation, and positioning to ensure the highest-quality, professional grade, real-time GNSS reference network services.

4. Future Opportunities
TopNETlive is a network cooperative managed by Topcon Positioning Systems and its global dealer network. The unique nature of this cooperative enables clients and users the opportunity to invest in the network. Those who choose to do so receive benefits from the cooperative that enable them to recoup their initial investment in less than three years, and maintain the benefits as long as their reference stations are active in the network.

Our team’s goal is to continue growth and expansion of TopNETlive in Minnesota, and have 100% of the Twin Cities metro area and a number of other cities covered by spring 2017. 

5. Numerous Applications
The TopNETlive network is practical for several applications across numerous industries.

Its accuracy and availability have opened up the network to be used on high-profile construction projects, from large scale highway construction to airport runways. Professional land surveyors and engineers can save time and enhance safety on the jobsite by using the TopNETlive network. And the opportunities the network offers in cropping, fertilization, and land-leveling applications is contributing to its rising popularity in precision agriculture.


As coverage continues to expand in the TopNETlive network, the possibilities will grow for current RDO Integrated Controls customers, with doors opening for other professionals seeking time-saving, accuracy-boosting tools on the jobsite.

Get more details on the Topcon TopNETlive network.

Interested in joining the Topcon TopNETlive network in your area? Contact the RDO Integrated Controls team.

 

December 1, 2016  |  Category: