Autel Robotics is a leader in drone technology, and they have been moving into the lucrative agricultural surveying market. In order to assist them with this transition, my team was tasked with creating a simple, easy-to-use mobile app that would enable the user to remotely build and save mission plans for surveying large areas of farmland, using their X-Star Premium drone.
Challenge: Autel Robotics needed an app for planning drone missions offline and remotely.
Team: Myself, Audrey Bastian, Timothy Kim.
My Role: UX Designer, interview screener, interviews, assisting with proto-persona development, storyboards & sketches, prototyping, visual/UI design, identity design, user testing.
Being new to drone technology, we did a fair amount of prep work before our initial client meeting; our research into the company and the drone and agricultural industries, and we had quite a few questions for the client. They were able to provide us with some critical product details, as well as recommendations for several potential users to interview. We also created a screener and posted it on various forums in the hopes of setting up some more qualified leads to speak with. We spoke with a few farmers and orchardists, and several drone pilots who operate for clients in the Real Estate and Agricultural industries, and also did a comparative analysis of several existing applications in the drone control space. One of my team members had a roommate who owns a drone, so he was able to play around with it and see how it functioned with the available apps; subsequently the client provided us with one of their own drones, and we were able to compare and contrast the features.
Overall, the data points we discovered were fairly consistent across the board. Users want a single application that handles flight planning, flight launch, and mission control. They want to be able to plan offline and remotely, using advanced map caching. They want a simple, plug-and-play interface, with expert options available when needed, and they want as much control over battery optimization as possible. We managed to extract these salient points along with quite a few other bits of data from our initial client and user research, which we proceeded to organize into a coherent structure in order to begin to construct some personas to work with.
The data revealed that we had two main users for this app: individual farmers, and third-party precision agriculture services (drone pilots). Our aggregated proto-personas, Wade and Jake, each represented one of these. Jake, an older wheat farmer new to drone technology, would need a simple plug-and-play interface with minimal controls and a short learning curve. Wade, a middle-aged professional drone pilot quite familiar with drones and their use in real estate and farmland surveying, would need to be able to plan a flight remotely and save each plan for reuse and/or analysis later. He would also be more likely to want more granular controls available when needed.
We put together a user scenario for Wade, our primary persona, and I sketched up some rough storyboards to illustrate it. In the scenario, Wade is able to respond to a call to survey a large plot of farmland, utilizing the proposed application to plan the flight, forecast the weather conditions, and determine important logistical factors such as the number of batteries to bring along.
Now we had enough information to build out the proposed functionality, so I put together some pencil sketches of the interface. From these I built out hi-fidelity wireframes using Sketch and Photoshop, which we subsequently brought into Axure to add interactivity.
The prototype was completed in Axure, tested and iterated in multiple rounds with several potential users, and presented to a strongly positive response from the client; see the demo above.
This was a great project; we got to play with some cutting-edge technology, and learned all about drones and precision agriculture. The opportunity to design an application in this space was fantastic, and we went all-in on creating something that would exceed expectations. The clean, simple interface addresses the needs of the user base, with advanced controls just a toggle away. The actual app is currently being built for the Android platform and should be shipping soon.
Since this app will likely ship bundled with future incarnations of Autel drones, success metrics would rely primarily on reviews and user feedback.