By

Competition Flight 2 - Day 3 - USC UAV Competition

This morning, we were able to get out onto the field right away and perform a range test. Soon afterwards, we began our second competition flight. We brought a second router for this flight in order to set up a connection to a computer that would display the GCS to the pilot, in an attempt to perform stabilized flight out of the line of sight and thereby expand our search area. The plane’s takeoff and flight were smooth, and the radio and telemetry links to the plane remained connected throughout.

Cameron monitoring the plane down the runway, with the pilot GCS laptop in front


However, almost immediately after takeoff, we noticed that the wi-fi connection between the Pandaboard and the ground imaging laptop was extremely weak, and at one point, even disconnected entirely. This meant that we were only able to wirelessly transfer the first few photos taken by the plane. We continued with the flight because it was still possible to land and make a direct wired connection afterwards to transfer the images taken. A few of us hypothesized that there was some interference between the two routers, but it was only after the plane landed that we discovered that the new router was using the _ exact same frequency _ as the router used for the imaging despite being set to auto select an unused frequency.

Looking at the targets at the imaging station

Despite this, we were still able to get all the images that the plane took. Here are a few:

As you can see, there was no possibility of discerning targets from any of these blurry photos. This was because we had made another critical mistake: we had taken out the working camera used for yesterday’s flight and replaced it with the other identical but unfocused camera. Therefore, during this flight, we were unable to identify any targets. With the wind picking up and dark clouds approaching, competition flights ended during the morning, and with that went our last chance to improve on yesterday’s score.

The afternoon’s activities were a welcome break. Most of this time was taken up by the Mini-expo, which was a chance for all of the teams to set up their systems to show to the public, sponsors, and other competitors, and to go around and talk to the other teams. Cameron tried to add telemetry over Wi-Fi functionality to the Panda Board in order to show a proper demo of his redundant link system, but there were problems setting it up. Nevertheless, we were able to gather some interesting information about the other teams’ operations. We also got a chance to look inside the unmanned aircraft MISKAM at its systems.

After packing up our aircraft and other supplies, we headed to the final banquet for acknowledgments, congratulations, and finally the announcement of results. All of the teams that were able to get airborne were also able to get target information. It turned out for us that out of the three targets we identified the previous day, only two were correctly georeferenced. Every other team obtained more targets than we did, mainly by virtue of performing more than one flight with collection of target data. It seemed that correctly obtaining GPS coordinates was a problem for many teams; even the top team, VAMUDeS, had incorrect GPS information for about a third of their 30 targets. We were glad to still receive a $500 cash prize; we also obtained files with the correct target information and locations.

One bonus during this trip was our reception of media coverage. A reporter from Radio-Canada came to the airport yesterday to do a news story on the competition, and she interviewed- us about our systems and out performance during our first flight. Our team ended up receiving the majority of the coverage of the news story; a link to it can be found here .

Demonstrating our ground control station to the RDI reporters

Alma was an incredibly hospitable place, and we had a lot of fun during the competition despite encountering some pretty major obstacles. There are many things for us to reflect on for the next competition, and an enormous list of things for us to work on, including a better systems presentation, major fixes for the ground imaging software, and more detailed pre-flight checklists. This Thursday, we will be having a meeting at which we can work on these and plan the next one and a half months until the AUVSI competition. Stay tuned for more updates then.

L to R: Cindy Xiao, Arshad Husain, Sheldon Marquis, Cameron Lee, Emmanuel Odeke