Deere & Co. has teamed up with Kespry Inc., a producer of automated drones, to make topographical mapping in construction faster, easier and more economical.

John Deere Construction and Forestry dealers will provide the Kespry Aerial Intelligence System to their customers on job sites around the world. Starting with North America, the alliance enables John Deere customers to use Kespry’s fully integrated industrial drone platform to capture topographical data in minutes with survey-grade accuracy.

Tammo Wagner, manager of technology partner integration at Moline-based Deere & Co., said that about 18 months ago, Deere began exploring how to help contractors obtain topographical survey data more efficiently.

Obtaining topographical and survey data, he said, “is commonly done with base stations and rovers."

"These devices sit on a tripod and another person walks around shooting points. While this can be very accurate with GPS measuring latitude and longitudinal elevation, it also is manual labor intensive.

“That’s been the process for a while and we decided to see if we could make this process rapid, seamless and automated,” Wagner said.

Deere looked at using satellite and other systems to integrate with the mapping technology, he said. “We determined we really needed to use unmanned aircraft systems,” Wagner added.

After evaluating a number of companies that make drone systems, Deere settled on Kespry, based in Menlo Park, California.

David Shearer, vice president of marketing for Kespry, said the company has been in business since 2013, “which may not seem like a long time, but in drone years it’s a very long time.”

Shearer said the company was founded on finding new ways to serve business solutions rather looking for a problem to solve.

The goal at Kespry, he said, is to reduce the amount of friction in getting high-quality data from the field into the business as quickly as possible so that decisions can be made and work begun.

“What John Deere saw in us is a company dedicated to a complete solution that makes it easy for people to capture field data without having to become drone experts,” Shearer said.

But of vital importance is the fact that Kespry is a one-stop shop. Not only do they make the drone, they provide all of the technology that captures all the data and transfers it to the cloud so it is readily available to a business’ decision-makers.

“There are a number of companies that produce good drones,” Shearer said. But these drone makers don't have an integrated cloud solution. And there companies that have good cloud technology but they don't make drones, he added.

Other companies leave it to the drone customer to cobble together the technologies that may not be compatible.

But, Shearer said, Kespry provides the whole package, drone, technology, software and support.

Additionally, having people out in the field can be dangerous depending on the area being surveyed. Deere and Kespry make topographical surveying much safer. 

“You don’t fly a Kespry drone,” Shearer said. “You send it on a mission. You hit the button and the drone does the rest.” It is technology that anyone can use, and “augments the potential of your team."

Wagner said that a Quad-City construction company recently had to survey a 100-acre site. Because it was such a large mapping job, surveyers attached the rover equipment to an ATV. The ATV would move 8 feet before stopping at each shooting point so that the person with the base site could take the measurement.

“It took them 2½ weeks to complete the mapping,” Wagner said.

Shearer said that for a 25-50 acre site, a person could go out before breakfast with one of Kespry’s drones and Deere’s technology and have the data by lunch.

"It's not drones they're interested in but the data it provides," he said.” The technology that Deere and Kespry offer provides that data, “in minutes or hours, not days.”

What Deere and Kespry are offering, Shearer said, “is real-time data to effectively manage operations from the beginning of the job to the end. It’s beginning a journey to give our customer base the kind of information and operating data they’ve not had before.”

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