Maintaining a golf course is a difficult undertaking that never ends. Groundskeepers have to determine – usually by sight at ground level – how much water and chemicals should be applied to keep their courses looking green and well-manicured. Their work is made even more challenging by drought, record-high temperatures and other weather events linked to climate change. It's an inexact science that, regardless of human expertise, can lead to high water bills and maintenance costs.

This is where GreenSight Agronomics performs, as an experienced golfer would say, an effective loft. With a fleet of drones that are outfitted with high-definition, infrared and thermal cameras, the Boston-based company captures images of every blade of grass on a golf course to provide a wide array of maps and real-time analysis that can be viewed on any mobile device.

Supplied each day with high-resolution images, groundskeepers can now see small stress patterns on turf before they are visible to the human eye. Similarly, GreenSight Agronomics' thermal maps of turf temperatures enables groundskeepers to make informed decisions about irrigation. Knowing which sections of turf need heavy or little irrigation helps golf courses conserve water and save big money. The company’s founders have prior experience developing drones for the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA.

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GreenSight Agronomics also relieves farmers from having to walk every inch of their properties. Farmers receive images and data for in-the-moment analysis of soil moisture and possible infestation. Whether it's for tomatoes or golf balls, Greensight Agronomics' end-to-end service – from drone flight to image and analytics – is revolutionizing property management right down to the seed.

Improving Drone Design

For designing and manufacturing its own unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the company recently switched from SOLIDWORKS® to Onshape, a modern 3D professional CAD system that unites advanced modeling tools and design data management in a secure cloud workspace

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Mechanical engineer Ben Pedtke appreciates Onshape's mobile app allowing him to work on his CAD model during his daily train commute. "Whenever inspiration strikes, Onshape will be waiting," he says.

Given that drone development involves many moving parts and multiple contributors, GreenSight valued Onshape’s freedom to collaborate without restrictions and its ease of file management, eliminating the risks of team members accidentally overwriting each other’s work or unintentionally breaking an assembly.

"With SOLIDWORKS, occasionally someone would copy a file and name it differently when they made a change," says systems engineer Andrew DeLollis. "Integrating those changes into the master file, you'd have to make the same exact changes again. With Onshape, branching is built in. It makes it so much cleaner and easier. You don't even have the option of messing up."

In Onshape’s Multi-part Part Studios, all parts that are related to one another are designed together in one workspace. That makes sense to GreenSight mechanical engineer Ben Pedtke, who appreciates how he no longer has to jump back and forth between files and can immediately find what he’s looking for. "It just feels like a very natural feature that should be part of SOLIDWORKS or other CAD programs," he says.

CAD Reliability and Universal Access

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GreenSight engineers Ben Pedtke (left) and Andrew DeLollis value Onshape's built-in collaboration features, eliminating the risks of colleagues overwriting each other's work.

Since switching to Onshape, the GreenSight team says they are relieved they no longer have to worry about losing work to file corruption or CAD crashes. Onshape saves every design change forever on redundant servers. If there ever is a crash, a new instance of the failed software component takes over in just a few milliseconds – as if an interruption never happened.

DeLollis knows the pain of lost work all too well, recalling a previous job where a loose electrical connection to his computer would ruin his productivity without warning. "If someone would accidentally bump the wall, my computer would shut off," he says. "And, of course, depending how long it was since I had saved, I sometimes lost hours of CAD work in SOLIDWORKS. It was pretty frustrating. And it would periodically crash on big assemblies, too, which was also a pain."

Pedtke adds that he appreciates how Onshape enables him to design drones on his tablet during his daily train commute to and from work.

“The fact that Onshape makes CAD easier and I can do a lot more of it because it runs anywhere, makes it a lot more fun,” he says. “I do appreciate a lot of the CAD functionality differences, but it’s a significant advantage to me, professionally and for my own projects, that I can use it when I need to, any time and place.”

“Whenever inspiration strikes, Onshape will be waiting,” Pedtke adds.

Taking to the Sky with Confidence

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GreenSight's gsNDVI imagery uses near-infrared and visible imagery to exaggerate the plant health issues, showing where more watering is needed.

The sky is the limit for GreenSight Agronomics as it continues to expand its roster of customers. As more greenskeepers and farmers turn to the company to conserve water and optimize their landscaping/agricultural operations, the GreenSight team looks forward to introducing even more sophisticated drones.

Currently, GreenSight Agronomics has to have an employee onsite for every drone flight, while a team monitors aerial progress from large screen monitors at company headquarters. "We're hoping that the regulatory climate will be more in favor of autonomous operation,” says DeLollis, “and that we will have a system that lands, charges, stores and even diagnoses its own problems, and that it can be remotely operated."

And as applications for drone technology continue to evolve, DeLollis says he expects Onshape will play a key role in helping GreenSight take advantage of new opportunities.

"We appreciate Onshape’s easy collaboration, not having to worry about document management, not having to worry about having our high-powered computers crash or shut off,” DeLollis says. “We’re happy we switched."