Sunday, January 29, 2017

FLOW Landmarks

We had an eventful week for FLOW! We did our first official data collection pass yesterday.
Near-IR shot of our little pond. Looks like we need to focus the nIR sensor better; it's blurry relative to our RGB.

RGB (visible light) shot of our little pond. Much crisper.
We got a load of good imagery, and also set out points for georectifying our results using a fancy NCCU GPS.

Yes, we did this terrible thing (red duct tape holding cameras on; my shame is eternal) but had removed it for the flight that crashed.
Note the downed drone bottom-center. Note its expression of shock and betrayal. Note how Katherine is ready to swat it with her kombucha if it makes any sudden movements.

We also had our first crash; during normal flight operations (i.e. no janky duct-tape vertical wings interfering with the prop wash) the vehicle suddenly started veering off in a direction of its own volition.
It went into the trees despite any input I made on the control console and, understandably, experienced a rapid foliage-assisted self-disassembly and ballistic descent.
After picking up the pieces, cleaning it out, and putting on new props, the Solo is still flying fine! We do, however, need to figure out what went wrong. More on that as we dig into the post-mortem.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

FLOW Visits Duke Marine Lab

During the last bit of our winter break part of the Fly Low Over Waterways (FLOW) team hopped in the car to go visit the Duke Marine Lab at Beaufort, NC. Four of us packed into my tiny Honda Civic for about six hours in the car. 

We had great weather for the trip, it was very warm and a little overcast. We were immediately excited when we arrived on Pivers Island and saw the beautiful campus.

Rett Newton, our host, greeted us like old friends and took us on a tour of the workspaces and gave us a presentation about the research that they are doing with UAVs and GIS. 

We took him out to lunch at a local, a strangely named restaurant, called the Sanitary Fish Market.

It lived up to the name. All of the fish seemed very clean and we enjoyed the view into the sound.

After lunch Rett showed us some of the different aircraft that they use and spoke about the benefits and specifications of each system. Seth was thrilled to see a homemade drone that was similar to one that he had built himself.

We learned about using 3D point clouds to map oyster beds, counting seals with GIS, scooping up whale blow with a drone borne petri dish, accidentally studying sand with UAV motors, examining horse health through rear view imagery and other fascinating applications.

We were visiting to support our project, which is observing solid pollution in freshwater and fine tuning the spectral signature library of plastics. Rett gave us a lot of good ideas and also got everyone excited to resume work on the project.

But I think the students were the most enthusiastic about all of the cool gadgets that they have at the Duke Marine Lab and Rett was gracious enough to let us get some hands on experience with the equipment. 

This is the moment when I became a fixed wing convert. The fixed wing aircraft was mesmerizing because it seemed to work by magic! 

After our tour was over we made sure to take some time and smell the salt air and visit with some other local flying experts.

 This was a fantastic trip and definitely worth the time spent in the car. We are eager to get moving on this project and hope to grow our friendship with the Duke Marine Lab.