Autonomous Drone Application

S&C Electric Company - 3 months
UX Design - A tablet application that allows users to create a map based assignment queue, and deploy an automated drone that connects to IoT devices to safely complete tasks.
Deploying field technicians can be slow, costly, and dangerous. We designed an application that leverages new commercial drone technology to revolutionize the power grid industry.
Team and Role
I worked with a visual designer to deliver an interactive hi-fi prototype and spec document. I led the UX strategy through research, wireframing, usability testing, and communicating designs to the development team and project leads.
You have to get creative to learn about user needs when you have no direct access to users.

Iterate details digitally, iterate big ideas on the whiteboard.

Project Background

S&C Electric Company

  • B2B
  • Develops electric grid hardware for utilities
  • Software team (less than 60 people) to manage devices
  • My project revolved around the TripSaver II

The Prompt

TripSaver II devices have limited wireless range and require the use of truck rolls to lift technicians up to the device, even for simple data downloads and firmware updates. Maintaining the devices in this way is:
  • Using paper maps
  • Service only one at a time
  • Identifying faults can be difficult
  • 6.3m miles of lines to service
  • $32/hour avg. for field technicians
  • $600 per truck roll
  • Top 10 most dangerous jobs
  • 50 of every 100,000 are killed
  • 62% of deaths from line contact
Create a Drone Application
  • Create more efficient routes
  • Service multiple devices at a time
  • Streamline note taking and include photo/video
  • Locate faults quicker


For the project, there were 9 people in 4 teams. I had to communicate daily with each team to ensure that the design would be integrating with and supporting the work of all the other teams.
Drone (2)
  • Hardware
  • Automated commands
  • Zigbee communication
  • CV integration
Computer Vision (2)
  • Recognition
  • Localizations
  • QR code
  • Comms with drone
Application (3)
  • Setting up the databases
  • Front end
  • Authentication
  • SDK integration
Design (2)
  • User flows
  • High fidelity prototype
  • Usability testing
  • Style guide

My Process

We worked in sprints, and my general process would repeat about each week. It was not linear, as after testing I would return to an earlier point in the process depending on what I learned.
I did research throughout the process on users, drone technology, and specific interactions I hoped to use.
After identifying a focus from my workflow diagram, I would iterate many versions of the big picture on white board.
I would then work out the visual details into a paper prototype or wireframe in order to test with participants.
Finally, I would test and either return to and earlier steps based on what I learned, or push to the visual designer.


Field Technicians

One of the biggest challenges for me was learning about users without access. Because I was not able to speak directly to users, I learned about them through talking to people in my company, and looking for videos and articles online.
  • Assigned tickets by manager
  • Spend most of days in field
  • Download event logs and update firmware
  • Perform repairs and report issues
  • NOT the buyer


I came into the project with no knowledge of drone technology or aeronautical regulations. I had to spend a lot of time referencing The Federal Aviation Administration rules to assure that our software would promote behaviors within the law.
  • FAA regulations
  • No fly zones
  • Altitude and speed limits
  • Weather and battery limitations
  • Standards and best practices


Provide Useful Information
Field technicians want to see information about specific devices both before and after they have travelled there to help them make decisions and keep safe.
Keep it Familiar
This is an old and established industry that is not the most accepting of change. Therefore the workflow and interface should try to keep the process similar and familiar.
Suggest Not Dictate
Utility companies want field technicians following the most efficient routes, but users want to feel in control and should be empowered to make their own decisions.
Safety Features
Many safety precautions need to be communicated in the UI to potentially inexperienced pilots in order to be in compliance with law and protect businesses.


I used dozens of exemplars all throughout the process to inform everything from the layout and visual hierarchy of entire screens to individual elements and interactions. Here are a few key examples:
Current S&C Software
  • Card format
  • Sorting
  • Device and assignment organization
Google Maps
  • Pins and text
  • Center screen and location icons
  • Split screen between cards and map
Drone Applications (DJI)
  • Picture in picture for in flight mode
  • Drone metrics and safety features
  • Split screen for settings and map


Workflow Diagram

Often the first step for me in solving a particular problem was defining where it might fit in the workflow. This was constantly  adjusted and updated based on my testing and iteration, and was also used as reference to assist the development team.

Ideation and Iteration

Once I understood where a problem or feature fit within the workflow, I would use the whiteboard to ideate or iterate on the solution. For ideation, I used arrows to show the interaction between multiple screens. I iterated by drawing dozens of variations of the same screen or element.

I would often try to bring in the developers and team leads at this phase, to ensure that what I moved forward with was feasible, within scope, and of value.


On the home screen field techs are shown their assigned tickets in a list, and the devices locations on the map. Clicking an assignment card or device pin  takes users to the next screen and adds them to the queue.

Flight Plan

Next, technicians can see the generated flight path, adjust any parameters, and conduct a preflight checklist. When the flight path is crossing a no fly zone, the user can check to see more information in the advisories drop down. The flight path can be adjusted to avoid no fly zones by dragging any of the points on the line.



Throughout the summer, I tested at each step of the way. Most tests were only for portions of the many screens designed.
I did not formally test the sketches, but I would get lots of feedback from team leads and engineers.
Paper - 2 Tests
If needed, I would test on paper to quickly learn about big concerns before I moved to digital.
Wireframes - 6 Tests
I tested the wireframes to iterate before passing off to add the visual design.
Mockups - 2 Tests
Mockups were tested in the end to validate and check if the visual design had adverse impact on the interactions.

Example Results

For each test I would describe the scenario, give them tasks and prompts (if needed), record the sessions, and immediately review for analysis and summary. Each of the points below would then lead directly to an iteration within the design.

  • Cards/sub cards
  • Nearby devices
  • Weather and metrics icons
  • Was able to remove assignments to accommodate low battery
  • Home icon is misleading for “takeoff point”
  • Drone battery location is weird
Mental Model
  • “Drone” section selectors
  • Sorting not the clearest – Confused who made the “priority” ranking
  • First clicked “closed” and “all” to find the “note” he had just saved
  • Clicked icon to see progress, but could be confused which is which if there were more
"So, these 2 devices are done. 2 tasks, 1 task. This one says error ‘cause I canceled it."


Wireframe Prototype

I created wireframes of around 80 screens in sketch, and prototyped them in InVision to communicate designs to the team and visual designer.

Pitch Video

I scripted, filmed, edited, and wrote original music for a pitch video that was used to communicate our product to the entire software team.

Culture Video

I also scripted, filmed, edited, and wrote original music for a video highlighting the internship and culture at S&C Electric. I believe work and team culture is extremely important, and was happy for the opportunity to capture this summer in video form.