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RDO Partners Up to Make Drones Without Chinese Components

By Frank Raczon, Senior Editor | October 7, 2020
A tri-copter drone in flight
RDO Integrated Controls has partnered with a company to produce RDO-branded drones.

Though it is probably best known as a John Deere dealer with 75 locations in the U.S. and partnerships overseas, RDO Equipment also has its own technology division, RDO Integrated Controls, which is now marketing an RDO-branded drone.

RDO Integrated Controls recently partnered with Vision Aerial in Bozeman, Montana, to develop a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) primarily for construction and earthmoving companies. The RDR series drones are available on www.rdomarketplace.com, and RDO Integrated Controls will support the drones through its Solutions Center and Fleet Shield Services program.

Why its own drone line?

RDO also reps Topcon, a company that makes its own drones. Bill Edmonson, national positioning sales manager for RDO Integrated Controls, explains why the dealership wanted to establish RDO-branded drones despite carrying Topcon products.

“Developing a UAV solution directly with a manufacturing partner allows RDO to bring years of experience working with our customers directly to the product,” Edmonson says. “We can quickly assess a trend or requirement we’re seeing in the field and integrate it into the solution. No more suggesting changes to the manufacturer and hoping for results.”

Edmonson says Topcon’s Falcon8+ “remains the gold standard for technical inspection” that requires high-resolution digital twin photogrammetry and thermal analysis. He also calls Topcon’s third flight planning solution for automated close object mapping one of the best in the industry but says RDO saw a chance to go further—and longer.

“The RDROne and RDRTwo [drone] line allows us the flexibility to move beyond photogrammetry and thermal only payloads while allowing us increased flight times for larger acreages,” Edmonson says. “Our payload options now include photogrammetry, thermal, multispectral, hyperspectral, and videography, and we fly 50 to 80 acres per flight with 30-minute flight times standard.”

Initially developed with a mapping component, RDO’s RDR series UAVs are customizable for companies needing the various configurations. The RDROne drone is a tri-copter design, and the RDRTwo drone, designed for heavier payloads, is a hexacopter.

Non-Chinese drone components

“We sold our entire initial retail order upon arrival,” Edmonson says. “We’ve seen interest in the non-Chinese element of the systems, as well as the great endurance and payload flexibility.”

The drones are designed and built in the U.S., and a key feature of the Vision Aerial UAVs is said to be its non-Chinese component options. “UAV use is widely accepted on job sites; however, because of growing concerns regarding data management security, an increasing number of government jobs, military sites, and security projects do not allow use of drones that are manufactured in China or with Chinese components,” says Adam Gilbertson, VP of RDO Integrated Controls and RDO Equipment Co.’s Midwest Construction–West region.

Drone performance

The Vision Aerial drones provide volume and grade measurement, to a 10th-foot accuracy or better, when used with ground control or the additional RTK systems now available, RDO Integrated Controls says. The drones are built to fly in winds up to 35 mph and offer up to 35 minutes of continuous operation in a single flight.

The RDROne and RDRTwo are compatible with any photogrammetry data-management software including RDO’s online product, RDOai, a cloud-based 3D data management system and analytics platform. 

“Our mapping package system has found popularity with our aggregate and ‘dirt-moving’ construction customers and we’ve seen keen interest in our lidar and thermal offerings as well from survey and engineering firms,” Edmonson says.

Custom options are also available, RDO says, for applications in agriculture, inspection, law enforcement and security, mining, oil and gas inspection, professional photography and cinematography, and survey.
 

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