Trimble expands commercial UAV fleet, releases multirotor package

By Luke Geiver | August 27, 2015

Trimble’s fleet of unmanned aircraft systems has just been lifted to new heights. The global survey, position and technology provider based in California has released a multirotor unmanned aircraft vehicle platform that it believes can be as popular as its fixed-wing UAV used for precision ag, construction and several other drone-based applications.

The ZX5 comes with a 16 megapixel camera and the ability to capture live video footage for civil infrastructure, utility and oil and gas pipeline inspections.

Todd Steiner, product marketing director for Trimble’s geospatial division, told UAS Magazine that the new multirotor offering comes to the market after extensive research and the urging from current Trimble users in need of a UAV capable of vertical take-off. “The fixed wing [UX5], while we believe it is the best on the market for what it does, is not tailor made for every area,” Steiner said. After talking with customers from around the globe, Steiner and his team knew there was a need from its existing customer base. “We see it as very complimentary to our customers and they will most likely have both,” he said.

Since the release of the new ZX5 earlier this week, the Trimble team has been busy, he added. Many current customers had some idea the product could be hitting the market this year.

The platform was based off a German company’s design. “One of the things we really wanted was a proven professional system,” Steiner said. “We wanted a platform that was already in the professional space and one that our customers could rely on.”

The reliability of the system starts with its components, he added. All of them are designed for heavy commercial use, an element of the system that differentiates it from store-bought consumer drones. Because the system relies on six rotor blades, there are safety redundancies built into the design. If one blade malfunctions or goes, the multi-blade design will still allow the unit to stay in flight and land safely.

Unlike the fixed-wing Trimble offering, the ZX5 can be flow manually or autonomously. “We take the safety solutions on this unit very seriously,” Steiner said. Users are required to go through a safety certification process. Trimble has partnered with Juniper Unmanned, a UAS consultancy firm, to provide training sessions to any client that purchases a Trimble ZX5 system.

Trimble’s UAS-based offerings now include a fixed-wing and multirotor UAV along with two data processing and workflow systems. Each software offering provides various levels of user flexibility and system capability. The UASMaster system can translate data and imagery captured from any drone and condenses it into actionable information.

Trimble first entered the UAS market in 2012 through the purchase of a fixed-wing UAV manufacturer called Gatewing. “We saw UAS as a natural extension of surveying,” Steiner said. The extension even made it to the company’s focus on technology and measurement sensors. In addition to new and continued platform updates and offerings, Steiner said his team is also working and planning to release new UAS-based sensor offerings in the future.