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.

From the Ground Up to Scaling Up

Unique UAV event puts multiple eBee drones in the air for simultaneous, planned flight RDO-UAV

Author: Lindsay Paulson, RDO Equipment Co.

 

A dozen individuals from 10 states and numerous industries – 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
A division of RDO Equipment Co., RDO Integrated Controls provides solutions through GPS, lasers, GIS, survey, machine control, and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology. The company 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.

Contact the team at RDO Integrated Controls to learn more about complete UAV offerings.

RDO Equipment Co. Teams Up with Sentera

Partnership expands, brings new UAV products and opportunities to customers RDOPhantomDrone

Author: RDO Equipment Co.

RDO Equipment Co. has teamed up with Sentera, a UAV-focused company offering image and data solutions for drones. The new partnership enhances current UAV products and support offered by RDO Equipment Co., and extends the opportunity for the technology to more customers, primarily in the agriculture industry, and also to those in the construction, infrastructure, and public safety industries

What: New Offerings
Per the new partnership, RDO Equipment Co. is offering the DJI Phantom Drone equipped with Sentera’s Single Sensor, a premium NIR/NDVI sensor. Kris Poulson, Vice President of Agriculture at Sentera, explains why this sensor is ideally suited for agriculture use, saying, “The Single Sensor is designed to monitor crop health through NIR/NDVI data collection, allowing growers to quickly identify, assess, and address problems proactively.”

Also available, exclusive to RDO Equipment Co. customers, is Sentera’s AgVault™ image data management platform. This user-friendly system manages all RGB, NIR, and NDVI data, and seamlessly integrates with the John Deere Operations Center for easy management and sharing.

Why: Meeting Customer Needs
According to Jeff Lemna, Director of Customer Support, the partnership fills a customer need for an entry-level UAV option and easy-to-use data management platform, backed with strong technical support.

“There’s a large number of agricultural professionals interested in UAVs who are new to the concept and technology,” he said. “Our partnership with Sentera offers these customers the opportunity to add UAV technology to their operations with a high-quality unit and the support they need, at an affordable price.”

Lemna also spoke to the advantages the partnership provides all RDO Equipment Co. customers, saying, “Our new relationship with Sentera expands and strengthens our complete UAV offerings. Not only are we opening the door for new customers to enter the UAV space, we’re better able to support existing customers with new options.”

Where: Availability
At this time, six RDO Equipment Co. stores are offering the DJI Phantom Drone with the unique Sentera Single Sensor and access to Sentera AgVault software:

Yuma, AZ
-Breckenridge and Moorhead, MN
-Bismarck, ND
-Aberdeen, SD
-Pasco, WA

RDO Equipment Co. intends to expand to additional stores; in the meantime, customers can learn more about Sentera offerings and see product demos by contacting the precision product specialist team at their nearest RDO Equipment Co. store.

Get more info on precision agriculture offerings from RDO Equipment Co.

See complete UAV products, and learn more about service and support offered from RDO Integrated Controls, a division of RDO Equipment Co.

What Growers Can Do With Precision Ag Technology

Growers learn at inaugural North State Precision Ag Expo and Farm Business Forum Agriculture-Technology

Author: Tim Hearden, Capital Press

Rice growers Joe Richter and Jim Bell wanted to get a bird’s eye view of their own fields to gain a better understanding of how well their crops grow.

So they took aerial photographs of their fields using a program from AgPixel, an Iowa-based firm that uses sensing technology to detect plant stresses before they are visible to the naked eye.

Now the two have their own company, Willows, Calif.-based AgVision, and provide aerial surveying of rice fields, nut orchards and row crops for growers throughout the Sacramento Valley.

“The most critical thing is, data has to be usable” to help growers cut costs or increase revenue, Richter told a gathering Nov. 15 at the Glenn County fairgrounds in Orland. “We wanted something that would be high-quality and flexible when people needed it.”

Richter and Bell use a fixed-wing, manned aircraft to capture their images, while some other growers and businesses use drones. Aerial imagery can help a rice grower spot inconsistencies in aerial applications of fertilizer or seed and help a nut grower see troubled areas in orchards that would otherwise take days or weeks to survey from the ground, Richter said.

“The most important thing is not just the information you collect but what you can do with it,” he said, noting that the data could help a grower know where to take soil samples or do weed control.

Richter spoke during the opening session of the inaugural North State Precision Ag Expo and Farm Business Forum, a two-day conference that was to feature more than 30 presenters on precision technology and farm management as well as about 40 trade show vendors.

Fair director Ryann Newman created the event after hearing from growers that they’d like to learn more about all the new ag-related technology available. Other discussion topics were to include precision nutrient management, irrigation and soil moisture testing and mobile device applications that can change how a grower does business.

Among the trade show booths was one operated by Bob Myre of Myre Distributing in Willows, who was demonstrating a computerized tractor steering system used for planting crops.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Myre said of the conference, adding it would teach growers about the technology that’s available. “We have the tools to obtain precision when farming, when doing fertilization.”

Butte City, Calif., alfalfa and walnut grower Cameron Jantz, a beginning farmer, wanted to learn what tools are available to make the job easier.

“I’m actually here looking at precision irrigation stuff, like drip tape,” he said.

The conference and trade show come as a recent USDA study found that many growers aren’t using the precision technology with which their farm machinery is equipped.

Richter said he became interested in the subject two years ago at a conference in Oregon, but he said much of the emphasis then was on drones.

“Everyone is interested in the hardware but not what you can do with the pictures,” he said.

“For precision ag to work,” he said, “you’ve got to be able to take the information and turn it into action.”

Full article shared from Capital Press website.

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.

FAA Part 107 Test Info

Three things to know to prepare for your test RDO_Integrated_Controls

Author: RDO Integrated Controls

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.

Full article shared from RDO Integrated Controls website. To learn more about the RDOIC FAA Compliance Package, or for any UAV-related questions, contact the RDOIC team.

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.

Meet Agriculture’s Game-Changer

Drone technology brings new opportunities to agriculture RDO-drone

Author: RDO Equipment Co.

Not since the invention of the tractor has a technology come along with the potential to impact the agriculture landscape in a significant way. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, are changing the business of farming. Thanks to drone technology, farmers have access to more data and information than ever before, and are harnessing it into knowledge to find new, innovative ways of advancing day-to-day operations, such as:

• Improve resource efficiency, productivity, and profitability
• Maintain targeted use of water, fertilizers, and pesticides
• Monitor moisture content and nutrient levels
• Obtain real time analysis of soil health, plant health, weather patterns, and more
• Access fields anytime, anywhere, even within the comfort of their own homes

RDO Equipment Co. is committed to being a partner and resource, setting up our customers with both the cutting-edge technology they want and the support they need to advance their operations and impact the bottom line.

Learn more about the latest in drone technology by visiting RDO Integrated Controls.

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.