In this week's North American Ag Spotlight Chrissy Wozniak hears the inspiring story of how Hylio was built. CEO Arthur Erickson breaks down the importance of aerial farming solutions and gives advice to those still hesitant to adopt hi-tech modern farming methods.
Hylio develops and offers innovative drone systems that automate precision agriculture treatments. Using Hylio’s technology, farmers/producers can now apply crop treatments directly to problem areas, allowing farmers to increase yields by addressing pests and deficiencies with more accuracy and efficacy.
In 2015, Arthur Erickson and two fellow students at the University of Texas at Austin, Nikhil Dixit, and Mike Oda, were in their dorm room working on aerospace engineering assignments and discussing the possibilities of using drones in agriculture. This was the beginning of Hylio.
While they were still in school, Arthur, Nikhil, and Mike began working on prototypes. Mike, who grew up on a ranch that Arthur often visited, provided insider knowledge on some of the logistics and challenges that farmers face when spraying crops. And the trio benefited from access to equipment in UT labs like prototyping machines, and the advice and feedback of professors, as they worked to get their fledgling business off the ground while finishing their degrees.
Once the first Hylio agrodrones were ready for flight, the team began offering spray services to farmers and ranchers, and quickly realized that more testing and work were needed to perfect the drones. Because regulations for drones are more stringent in the U.S., the team decided to travel to Central America to work with farmers there as they worked on perfecting the technology.
During the first year of operations in Central America, the team worked alongside farmers spending 10 hours or more in the fields, spraying thousands of acres, and working out bugs with the Hylio hardware and software. The farms in El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala where they worked were ideal testing grounds for agricultural spray drones. Farmers in these regions grow on extremely steep and rocky land, making it impossible to spray using ground rigs. The only option before Hylio was to spray by hand, which was very labor intensive and exposed workers to chemicals, or by plane or helicopter, which was expensive.
Hylio is now one of the very few U.S. companies that are developing drone systems in-house and manufacturing them in the U.S. The Hylio team designs everything from the mechanical engineering components such as the power distribution system, the aerospace aspects – optimization of the flight envelope, propellers, and aerodynamics in general – and the software to control the drones. Because Hylio develops its own technologies from the ground up, it is uniquely positioned to sell a turn-key system to farmers and service operators that is optimized for effective and easy crop treatment.
Learn more about Hylio at https://www.hyl.io
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