From Snow to Sand – Developing Canadian AgTech Drones in Two Places at Once

Have you ever wanted to be in two places at once? This winter we at Precision AI have been able to achieve the impossible by being 2500km (1600 miles) apart yet still connected. In November our team arrived in Arizona at the Maricopa Ag Center. While initially our team went down to set up, only a couple stayed to perform the flights and tests needed. The rest of us left the sand and returned to our snowy home to work on system development from here.

For the next two months we worked as a two-pronged team. Developing code in Canada, deploying it in Arizona. The Arizona team added instrumentation to log bugs and collect metadata for the Canadian team to analyze and develop solutions for. The new code would then be tested on a payload here in our Regina, SK shop before deploying down south. Constant communication was key.

Every week we saw progress, moving the bar closer and closer to our goal. By the second week in January, we were working with a local sprayer operator running full end to end tests spraying water on our field in Arizona. This was a huge milestone for us as this was a different sprayer brand and allowed us to test our prescriptions on a different control system. Something we wouldn’t be able to do for another four months back in Canada!

An unexpected benefit of being in Arizona was the chance to show our Board of Directors and investors just how far our system had advanced. Due to Covid, our American stakeholders were unable to join us in Canada last summer, but our winter testing facility gave us a unique opportunity. Board members were able to place potted plants throughout our field to give them a hands-on experience with our technology. We flew the field and loaded the prescription into the high clearance sprayer. Our stakeholders were able to see their specific plants sprayed with water in real time, showing just how far our development has come in seven months.

As we packed up to leave the sand for a brief reset, we reflected on the day we landed in November; our first planting of wheat was barely at the one-leaf stage and the winter lay before us. The daunting thought of a divided team and much to accomplish hung over us, but just as those wheat plants grew bit by bit, so had our drones. We weathered the distance and accomplished in three months what would have taken all next summer to do if we hadn’t taken the opportunity to winter test in Arizona. Not only were we in two places at once, we were looking at the future and boy, was it bright!

By Precision AI Product Manager, Heather Clair