This is the first of our blog posts on the 2015 AUVSI Student UAS competition. Today was quite the day. We all got up early in the morning to catch our flights. We all decided to arrive 2 hours before our flight to the US and we just barely made the flight.
First comes the check in, then comes bag security, then comes security, then comes customs at the United States border. So first we had to check in our bags at the airline check in, which wasn’t too bad, just a couple of hundred dollars and you were on your way. Next we brought our checked bags to security specifically for checked bags. We had two oversized crates that had both airframes and tools in them so we had to unpack everything. Security needed to see everything we packed and swab everything. It took some time but we still had plenty of time, so no worries. Next security for passengers. We spent a little bit of time meanwhile all the security personnel huddled together and made a telephone call to see if we could take the batteries with us on the plane. It all worked out and we meet all the regulations, so onto customs. We went through customs before we left Canada. It went pretty smoothly except one of us got held up for some more questioning. Apparently taking two large wooden creates on a plane through customs raises some questions.
In the end, we made the flight with 15 minutes to spare, which in retrospect wasn’t too bad with all the delays we got.
Moving on, we got on the plane and flew to Denver, where our second fight was delayed. We spent some time in the airport exploring, eating food, and preparing for competition. Our next flight was to Baltimore Washington airport and was fairly uneventful.
We landed, got our bags, took a bus to the rental car building, and got our not so much a grand caravan but something similar van. We filled it to the brim with all of our crates and bags, and drove straight to Lexington Park, Maryland… well straight enough. On our way to Lexington Park, we may have made a wrong turn and went on a detour that took an extra 15 minutes. But we got a lot of pictures on the scenic detour that we did take.
We got to Lexington Park’s volunteer fire department hall at 8:00pm, where the check in for competition was. The competition was being held in Webster Field (of Naval Air Station Patuxent River), so the drive was only an hour and a half. We got all or information, singed some forms, meet up with our liaison for the military base, and were on our way to the grocery store because we needed food. It was past our dinner and we were all hungry, so what better place to get food then Walmart. It was sandwiches, potato chips, and orange juice for dinner tonight. We all still had some time, so we unpacked our suitcases, bags, and competition supplies in to hotel and started work on things for the next morning - presentations, competition objectives, camera and imagery, programming, and logistics. We were disallowed wireless transmission of any kind during the day tomorrow - as teams would be doing their safety inspections and radio frequency checks – so we did have to work out some logistics relating to wired connection of all our systems. All teams were only allowed to turn on their transmitters – radio control, telemetry, and payload Wi-fi alike – during the safety inspection and frequency check. We had to prepare for that short period of time to do a full check of our wireless systems while on site. Finally, we worked on our systems presentation, in which we had to present to a panel of judges our system setup, mission workflow, safety features, and existing system test data.
It was a lot to squeeze in with all the chaos of getting dinner, checking into the hotel, and unpacking; in the end, we all stayed up until 1 am.