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2017 AUVSI SUAS Competition Day 3

Hi everyone,

Flight day is here! We left the hotel and arrived on site at around 7am. We were not sure what time we would be flying so we made sure we were there first thing in the morning. When we got there, we saw that our flight time would be happnening later during the day.

This gave us even more time to make some more last minute preparations for the flight. It had gotten pretty windy during the day, so we modified the flight plan to compensate for wind speeds. We also triple inspected the airframe assembly and fully charged the battery again, just to be extra sure.

There was some downtime between us finishing the setup preparations and our flight time, so we decided to talk to some other teams and watch some other flights. There were a couple flights that had crashed, and luckily that wasn’t the case for us.

Once our flight time came, we loaded our equipment for the flight onto the cart and were shipped off towards the flight area. When we arrived at the pits, we were given 20 minutes to set up our equipment and be ready to take-off. Once we had linked into the interoperability server, we then received the locations of the stationary flight obstacles and saw that our flight plan had us fly through 2 of them. We then quickly modified our flight plan to try to avoid them where we could.

Plane Setup

After that, with the use of our handy-dandy safety and flight checklists, we finished the set-up well within the time given. We then gave our mission briefing to the judges, led by our very own fantastic team leader and co-president, Sebastian, where he described our systems, mission plan, and member roles to the judges before we flew.

The ground-station we were using at the flight area looked directly into the flight zone towards the direction of the launch, keeping our little Jownsey and the field team in sight.

Field Team

Once all members of the flight line took their positions, Sebastian initiated the check in sequence. “Imaging station is ready” said Cindy breaking the suspense, “auto-pilot is ready to go, engaging take off sequence” Sebastian said as the fierce humming of the propeller reached the ground-station. With two delicate hops forward, Andrew threw Jownsey with gentle elegance. Autonomous take off was a success.

From this point, Jownsey was far out of the ground stations field of view and would be monitored and directed from the ground control station. Jownsey circled the skies at an altitude of 120 meters above sea level in preparation to tackle his first task. Once sufficient altitude was reached, Jownsey cruised at a speed of 15 m/s northbound to capture the initial way-points, which surrounded a stationary obstacle. Jownsey skillfully swooped around the obstacle in a U-shape, capturing all the waypoints and avoiding the obstacle completely.

All was well and quiet until the GPS signal began to flutter. Suddenly, the GPS indicator on the ground control station flashed into a bright red, signaling that Jownsey has lost connection to the GPS, thus rendering him completely blind to his current position. If the connection couldn’t be regained, Rijesh would have been forced to manually take control of Jownsey, putting a halt to our mission. Luckily, lights flashed back to green after a few moments, and Jownsey resumes his original course.

Ground Station

As we neared the end of our search, the camera feed to the imaging station cut off. A connection within the onboard camera had been severed, but conveniently we obtained all the photos we needed. Jownsey was then rerouted back towards the north as it initiated its south-bound landing sequence.

Covering around half the field, Jownsey descended gradually to around 15 meters above ground level. The elevation reading on the Ground Control Station suddenly indicated that we were 15 meters below the target elevation. At the same moment, Rijesh called in from the field. “Uuhh, is this supposed to be happening? I’m going to attempt to land it manually.” Due to a miniscule error in the autopilot system, Jownsey diverted from the landing path at the last minute. However, with a timely manual take over, Jownsey landed safely with but a small bruise.

After we recovered Jownsey and brought him back to the ground station, Cindy quickly finished processing the images and we started packing everything away. We managed to end our mission with good time, finishing at 41 minutes exactly. After this the judges gave us their thoughts and feedback on our performance during the flight test. They congratulated and praised us all around, but mainly they complemented us on our team communication and our amazing safety protocols.

Take a step into the eyes of Jownsey below with these lovely images taken by Jownsey during the competition flight:

Star-shaped object.

Red semicircle, and what we think is the emergency target on the right side of the image, on the runway.

Some nice broccoli trees, and another target.

A better shot of what we think is the emergent target.

Rijesh, Andrew and Dat can be seen on the bottom right on the runway here(They’re the little dots).

The results of our flight will be coming out this evening, so stay tuned for updates!

Dat and Jackie