Tools, Technology Featured at Southwest Ag Summit

RDO Water to host live demo and panel discussion SWAgSummit

Author: RDO Water

Year after year, the Southwest Ag Summit continues to be a premier ag industry event that attracts professionals and students from Arizona, Southern California, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico. Whether it’s the field demos or exhibitor show, the panel discussions or breakout seminars, or even the always-anticipated breakfast burritos or the always-sold-out Harvest Dinner, this annual event provides education, enjoyment, and the opportunity to see longtime colleagues and make new connections.

The Southwest Ag Summit is February 22-23 at Arizona Western College in Yuma, AZ. RDO Water in Yuma has been involved for several years. Especially in the past few years, the team has established itself as a leader in technology and become one of the most anticipated live demos at the event. This year’s demo is no exception, as the team is highlighting both soil moisture management tools and UAV technology.

An automatic moisture sensor will be displayed, with explanation of how such tools factor into an irrigation management strategy. The team will also discuss the use of drones in agriculture; specifically, using aerial imagery to identify areas of field stress, drought, or unhealthy field conditions, and the opportunity it provides growers to respond to and adjust operations quickly to minimize yield loss.

In addition to the live demo, RDO Water is sponsoring Thursday morning’s keynote panel, “Connected by the Colorado River,” at 7:30 a.m. The panel includes Chuck Cullom, Central Arizona Project; Tom Davis, Yuma County Water Users Association; and Dr. George Seperich, Arizona State University. A Water Panel Breakout will follow at 9:30 a.m.

Both RDO Water and RDO Equipment Co. will have booths in the exhibit area. Throughout the duration of the event, team members will be available to meet with customers, answer questions, and discuss the companies’ total solutions approach to agriculture equipment and irrigation. Visit RDO Water at booth, #27 and RDO Equipment Co. at booth #26.

Visit the Southwest Ag Summit website for more information on the event, including online registration, educational sessions and a full event schedule.

Interested in finding out more about soil moisture management tools and UAV technology? Join us for the RDO Water demo or visit booth #27 at the Southwest Ag Summit exhibitor show.

If you’re unable to attend the show but would like to learn more, contact your local RDO Water store in Arizona or California.

Applications for Drones in Agriculture

Type of imagery plays major role in desired applications Drone-Agriculture

Author: Nate Dorsey, RDO Equipment Co.

The June 2016 update to the FAA’s Part 107 regulations for flying drones is just one factor contributing to the increase of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) use in several industries, including agriculture. But that’s only half of the story. As anyone in business knows, in order for a tool to make sense on a worksite, it first has to make sense on the bottom line.

In order to see a return from a drone investment on your farm, you need to know how to use a drone to save time, improve efficiency, and increase yields. Then, the real key to unlocking the true value of a drone comes from understanding the technology behind it.

Aerial Imagery
The high-quality images produced by drones are used for everything from pre-season scouting to monitoring crop health to identifying equipment issues. Drones produce three common image types:

Color (RGB)

-RGB images are similar to photos from a regular camera. They’re easy to understand, even for the novice drone user, but are the least descriptive of the three types.

Near Infrared (NIR)

-NIR provides images with higher levels of detail than those produced by RGB by utilizing color bands outside the light spectrum visible to the human eye.

Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI)

-NDVI uses both visible and near-infrared sunlight reflection to measure biomass (vegetation). Similar to NIR imagery, NDVI provides a higher level of detail than RGB images.

Each of these image types play an important role in the various applications for which drones are used.

Pre-Planning
The coverage area, vantage point, and speed a drone provides makes it a great tool for pre-season scouting. Using standard RGB imagery, the drone can produce 3D maps used for soil evaluations, topography reviews, and identification of drainage issues.

By gathering, reviewing, and evaluating this mapping data prior to planting, you only have a complete view of the whole area, but you may be able to identify problems and adjust planting strategy before, rather than during, the season.

In-Season Assessment
The primary advantage of drones over a manual scouting process is speed. An area normally monitored by a crop scout in several hours can be covered in a single, quick drone flight. This allows for one of the most common uses of drones in agriculture – ongoing monitoring of crop health throughout the season. NIR imagery is most valuable in this process for several reasons.

First, NIR images show heat so they can easily identify areas of plant and water stress. Their high level of detail offers additional applications such as weed detection, defining management zones, evaluating effectiveness of ponding and water management, and quantifying machinery-induced crop limiting factors. This ability to identify concerns and intervene quickly is directly linked to a better year-end harvest.

There are uses for RGB images in-season as well. They’re often used to identify planter skips and evaluate areas of lost production, allowing you to correct the problems.

Long-Term Analysis
In addition to their immediate help before and during the season, drone use can be beneficial over long periods of time. Like RGB and NIR, NDVI images can also show ponding, help assess crop vigor, and show changes in field conditions over time.

NDVI images measure the amount of biomass or “greenness” of a plant and create an index, which is then compared to areas of less vegetation and more vegetation. The numbers range from -1 to +1, with high amounts of biomass and green vegetation having increasingly positive numbers.

NDVI values are very sensitive to anything that affects light, such as haze, clouds, or even soil. For this reason, NDVI images are most effective in optimum conditions.

Bottom line: A drone is a helpful tool that can provide quality data and images but it’s up to you to analyze data and use it to make the best decisions for the crop and your farm.

Read the entire version of this article, recently featured in Progressive Forage Grower magazine.

To learn more about drones, contact the team at RDO Integrated Controls.

Diving Into Drones

Three key areas to explore when considering a drone for business RDO-Drone

Author: Nate Dorsey, RDO Equipment Co.

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 RDO Integrated Controls.

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.

About the Author

Nate Dorsey is an Agronomist for RDO Equipment Co., based in Moorhead, MN. Contact him at ndorsey@rdoequipment.com or on Twitter at @RDONateDorsey.

Additional contribution to this article provided by Matt Hayes, mapping/UAV product supervisor, and Bill Edmonson, UAV product specialist, both for RDO Integrated Controls and based in Billings, MT.

Article originally written for Progressive Forage Grower magazine. Full article can be viewed on Progressive Forage Grower website and in the Jul 15 issue.

Just Finalized: FAA Part 107 Rules for Flying Drones

What does this mean and what’s next? FAA-Part-107

Author: RDO Equipment Co.

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. Becoming compliant to fly commercial UAVs will be more accessible for many companies.

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?
The experts at RDO Integrated Controls offer an FAA Compliance Package as part of 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 RDO Integrated Controls to learn more.