Cloud computing allows for design on your terms.
Those are the words of Ian Henderson, chief executive officer at start-up Skybridge UAV, which is currently working on its first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that use a variety of sensors to collect data about soil conditions and crop growth in a low-cost manner. The information returned help farmers optimize their crop yields.
The drones will give growers and farmers the ability to see health of plants before the health affects outcome of crops and will carry sensors that detect the light spectrum of plants, which is not readily available to human eye, Henderson said.
Data collected on one farm during testing allowed farmers to fix a potential 16 percent loss in review, as the scan showed plants in some areas didn’t have the needed water content. In checking those fields, the owner discovered some irrigation-system nozzles had been plugged and hadn’t been watering the plants.
The company’s UAVs can stay aloft for 24 hours while carrying the more-than-25-pounds of sensors needed to collect data. They fly over multiple farms in a single day. If one farmer in an area requests UAV-returned information, Skybridge will notify others in the area about its planned flyover to offer those farmers a customized data package of their own.
“We worked to make a drone that wasn’t a hobby or a military done. We wanted to make one of the first unmanned vehicles for an industrial application,” he said.
As the FAA provides specifications that drones needed to meet, Skybridge needed to share its design information with the federal agency.
But because the company is just getting off the ground, it doesn’t yet have the funds to purchase a great deal of engineering software. But here comes the catch 22: To get up and running, Skybridge engineers need to do a great deal of concept and design work.
In other words, they need to create UAVs to demonstrate to potential backers and to the farmers who will purchase them to raise the capital that will allow them to purchase engineering software to design the drones.
Still, the company found a way around that problem by purchasing a monthly licensing subscription to the Solid Edge CAD software from Siemens. The design software can be paired with the Dropbox and other cloud-storage solutions, which engineers use to coordinate plans across designers, suppliers and manufacturers.
Because the license renews monthly, Skybridge can purchase, say, 12 seats while engineers are involved in creating initial, detailed designs, then lower the number of seats licensed to, for example, six, during less harried months, Henderson said.
Because the CAD software exists in the cloud—that is, the application resides Solid Edge-owned servers, engineers can access it, along with their designs, from any location, just as they can their Dropbox files, he added.
“So the CAD files follows you wherever you go and on any of your devices,” he said. “You can be work, at home, at your business, of offsite.”
Designers can access others’ files, with permission.
“So you can share CAD files across teams and sites to form a distributed team,” Henderson said. “Your license and your settings follow you wherever you go around the world. Files are local and performance is fast, at Internet speed.”
Henderson counts it as a boon to the small company that updates to the CAD software happen automatically in the cloud. Skybridge IT personnel don’t need to spend time installing the updates themselves.
“The Internet might go down, but CAD doesn’t,” he said. We take it for granted in the United States the level of Internet-access people have. In other parts of the world, it’s a lot more spotty.”
The CAD maker has partnered with Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Kenesto, and other cloud-based and local-server-based file-sharing services. When users upload files to those services, their files are automatically locked, meaning only users with the correct password access and only one person to work on or view a file at a time, said David Stafford, head of enterprise solutions for Dropbox.
So look for drone to be flying soon over cropland everywhere.
Filed Under: 3D CAD World