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SOI Educator Q&A with Patrick Crawford

Patrick Crawford will be joining the SOI Arctic 2015 for his first expedition as an educator, but it will be his second Arctic expedition, as he joined the Arctic 2008 expedition as a student. Read on to learn more about Patrick’s remarkable story of going from student to educator!


How did you find out about SOI?

I was fortunate to hear about SOI from my high school councilor in grade 11 (2008) at South Kamloops Secondary, Ann Milliken. She saw my ambition and passion to learn, grow and explore. She was thoughtful to think of me and to call me out of class to share SOI with me, I immediately began pursuing the opportunity to reach, explore and learn about our polar worlds. Thank you, Ann, you’ve undoubtedly changed the path of my life!


Patrick Crawford5

Patrick onboard the Arctic 2008 expedition

Tell me about your Arctic expedition in 2008, were there any memories that still stand out to you?

Absolutely. It’s fascinating to take a moment and to think about how you got to where you are today. It’s this process that helps us to realize how small interactions and events in our lives truly can make drastic changes in our futures.

From the magnificent fjords, resilient communities of the North, the breathtaking experience of my first journey to the Arctic is etched in my memory. In particular, there is a conversation with Tim Straka, former Director of Education of SOI, that has had lasting impact on my life. Tim and I were hiking together while on a day hike up a creek valley in one of the gigantic fjords, Tim asked me “what is one of your dreams?” I replied, “to explore and climb big mountains” his response was, “well, what’s stopping you?”.

Patrick, 17,000ft on Denali, otherwise known as Mount McKinley, June 2010, 18 years old

Patrick, 17,000ft on Denali, otherwise known as Mount McKinley, June 2010, 18 years old

It was his simple, poignant response that flipped a switch in my brain, combined with being surrounded by astounding beauty – I realized there is absolutely nothing stopping me from working towards my dreams. That was the beginning of many exciting adventures, taking me to some of the highest, furthest, and most unique places on Earth, and also allowed me to build my confidence and capability to explore the world intellectually, whether that be studying engineering, or building a company focused on using drones to help change the world. That short discussion with Tim in the Arctic in 2008 was a turning point in my thought process, and was a moment of maturing that I am thankful to have had.


Tell me a bit about what Spire Aerobotics does and what drove you to start it?

Spire Aerobotics is a geospatial data company focused on the acquisition, processing, and delivery of high-resolution geospatial data, primarily acquired via aerial drones. We’re a team of young and innovative engineers, developers, designers, and business minds building innovative technologies.

A drone

A drone

I grew up in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, and have been in love with flying machines since before I can remember. We started Spire in a perfect storm of team capability, technological advancement and pure passion and focused hard work. After beginning to play around with similar technologies in engineering school, it became incredible clear to me that there are many high-value ways to utilize drone technologies, this is before drones were a daily occurrence in the news. We began exploring applications of airborne drone technologies, founding the company in June of 2014.

We’ve focused our development on the forestry industry, using our algorithms to conduct forest inventory surveys at the individual tree level — detecting tree heights, species, volume, land topography, etc — these are the metrics required to understand the value of the resource and be able to plan and understand how to harvest and regenerate the land.

3D video-game style view of a forest canopy, acquired via drone

3D video-game style view of a forest canopy, acquired via drone

Spire’s techniques and autonomous forest data processing, combined with the ability to share this data across a large organization to then use for further analytics, viewing, and reporting is proving to be a very valuable product. These software and algorithmic techniques are easily adjusted for use in vegetation and security monitoring for pipelines, powerline right of ways, farms, glaciers, waterways etc. — the forestry industry is just the start.


What are you looking forward to most about this expedition?

I am particularly excited to meet all of the amazing people on the ship, both staff and students. Together, we have so much knowledge, and so many stories and experiences to share with each other – I look forward to the many conversations and discussion that will take place over our time together in the Arctic.

I am also looking forward to sharing our drone technology with students and staff to introduce them to the capabilities of the technology, and to operate our drones in the Arctic to better understand how we can harness this cutting-edge technology to help with research and other important applications in the Arctic.


As a former student yourself, do you have any tips for students to make the most of their expedition?

Take time to meet every one, don’t settle with only meeting a few great people and spending the trip with them, as your social brain may lead you towards – instead, make it a conscious priority to meet everyone on the expedition, ask questions, and share your opinions. Age has very little role in the ‘value’ of your statements, so push your boundaries and drink from the fire hose of knowledge. Who knows, you may end up moving towards a new passion in life, or at the very least have a friend with a couch to sleep on almost anywhere in the world! I’m looking forward to meeting you all.

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