Monday, 2 June 2014

should-be-manned aerial vehicle

The Grand Alpine Tour is now under way, with big Landy (still nameless as far as I know) leaving Newcastle in the early hours of today.  The main method of data capture for this epic adventure is the use of a UAV which is aiming to capture thousands of images and create 3D models of mountain and valley sides to assess the frequency and magnitude of landslides that occur above melting/retreating glaciers (see last week's post).

While the primary use of the big beast of a UAV is for another PhD project at Northumbria, it is hoped (and at least partly planned) that it will be made available for my own work on the Miage Glacier as well.  By strapping a TinyTag temperature logger and probes to the awesome 'little' flying machine it is hoped that I can log some data on vertical temperature profiles above the debris covered ice.  This is particularly interesting because the boundary layer meteorology above glaciers during the summer when they melt gives an idea of the 'free air' outside of the influence of the near surface.  By obtaining averaged temperature records for 1m intervals as high as we can manage (20m?) above the glacier, should give some interesting insights into the wider scale temperature controls on melt in such regions.

To say the methodology for this is nailed would be a lie.  Due to only having the larger S800 UAV (shown again below) for a short amount of time before going into the field with it, it is more of a try it and see approach.  (a youtube clip of this particular UAV with some music/camera action, in case you were interested?)

Looking back to March time, myself and Mark attempted this idea with the small DJI Phantom UAV.  One designed more for smaller projects, with less stability against the wind and one purchased largely for the purposes of practicing the idea of flying and capturing data.  Strapping the TinyTag logger onto the Phantom and the probes to each of it's little legs, we drove to Chester-le-Street (wanted to get out of the office anyway), paid for parking, and set the UAV onto the grass of a large park that I can't remember the name of.  Realising that we hadn't brought anything to detach the cabled-tied logger in case of problems, we thought we should just go for it.

This may have been one of the shortest science experiments in the world that doesn't involve rapid particle acceleration or the like.  Instantly after lifting off, the very lightweight logger unbalanced the UAV which did a 180 degree somersault landing upside down on its propellers and chipping one of them.  END.  Shame... it looked pretty bitchin'.

With a 10kg lifting weight, the larger UAV shouldn't have such a problem... but we will see how successful that will be :)

Science... gotta love it

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