March 13, 2017
Against the backdrop of the opening day of ConExpo-Con/Agg, which highlights drone technology with a drone aviary in its Tech Experience, John Deere and Kespry announced an exclusive global strategic alliance through which John Deere Construction & Forestry dealers will provide the Kespry Aerial Intelligence System to their customers on job sites around the world, beginning in North America.
“This technology will help our dealers offer a seamless workflow to site development and road building contractors from project planning through grading dirt,” says Andrew Kahler, product marketing manager, John Deere WorkSight. “The data gathered from the Kespry system will help our customers and equipment operators make decisions that reduce costs and improve productivity as they optimize the job site and spend less time on jobs.”
David Shearer, vice president of marketing for Kespry, describes the agreement as a ‘transformational moment’ for the aggregates industry, noting that his company’s partnership with a major mainstream manufacturer underscores how the industry is beginning to retool for the age of change.
“Operators are spending less time having to do the repetitive, often very dangerous, and very physical tasks at the work site and being able to focus more on the data and the outputs, and, therefore, where the value proposition is for the business in terms of better equipment insights, better inventory, better quality, and better use of data,” Shearer explains.
The partnership will immediately roll out to John Deere’s dealer network. As part of the alliance agreement, Kespry will conduct certification with all the John Deere dealerships so that each has certified and knowledgeable staff on site.
“The drone is designed so that a customer can take it out the box and be flying it in 5 minutes,” Shearer says, noting that the only prior skill required is knowledge of how to use an iPad. Dealer training will focus on educating dealers on topics such as FAA regulations, highlighting the interface, demonstrating drone calibration.
“The expectation of the agreement is that it’s going to be transformative – not just for the industry – but also for Kespry,” Shearer says.
The company has been growing at 300 percent year over year since it began in 2013. “We’ve been working with four or five of the top aggregate companies in North America, and we have had momentum behind the business,” Shearer says, adding that this deal is offer growth that matches last year’s volume in a single stroke.
Earlier this year, the company upgraded its Drone 2 with a 2s version that integrated a Global Navigation Satellite System base receiver that serves as a single survey control point. With the addition of the ground receiver the system can achieve accuracy of just over 3/4 of an inch to 4 inches. Imagery from the drone is collected and uploaded to the cloud, where survey-grade data is generated. Post-processed kinematic technology increases the accuracy of the aerial images.
To date, the company has focused on creating a ‘friction free’ experience that allows operators to quickly pick up the technology and put it to use without having to become an expert in drone technology rather than their own job.
Moving forward, Shearer says that the next era of drone technology innovation will focus on data analysis and downstream functions. “We operate on the premise that while the drone is very important to the solution, it’s a data capture device,” he says. “The information is where the real value is.” Looking forward, a focus on downstream functions – as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence – represents the next era of innovation.
“What’s particularly exciting is that it affords the construction, mining, and aggregates industries with the ability to become more efficient and more effective,” Shearer says, “and for the workers who are out in the field to very easily be able to start retooling and reselling for the digital age that we are now living in.”