Friday 24th May 2013 saw another major milestone met.  We took the AUT Hawk to a location close to a patch of native bush to collect RGB and nIR images.

Our intention is that these images will be integrated with ground truthing data collected by students using a handheld spectroradiometer.

Not everything went according to plan, but we learned a great deal about our operations and in the process carried out further training for Barbara, who had been unable to come out on field trips with us since September 2012.

Planning for the sortie began the previous week, and John B spent a day preparing the UAS and programming a series of photographic transects to be flown by the Hawk.  Using the Hawk simulator, it appeared that the flights would collect images from overlapping transects for later analysis.

The day was perfect for our operation - bright sunshine with wind approximately 5kph and forecast for only occasional showers.

First lesson:  follow the checklist in its entirety.  As a pilot, John B knows the importance of this and pointed out that the team had jumped a couple of steps.  This became apparent after the first launch, when the aircraft went into navigation mode but failed to commence photography.  The aircraft was recovered and we found that the software was looking for the FLIR camera, rather than the Sony NEX5-N.

Second lesson:  after a photographic sortie, check the results before a second flight.  After we returned to AUT, John B removed the SD-RAM card from the camera to download the images, only to find two nIR photographs, rather than the 200 or so that we expected.  Clearly, we still have a programming issue with the automatic camera triggering.

After the flights, we conducted a short debriefing, picking out important points for improvements in future operations.  This was good practice for the team.  We hope to repeat the exercise this week with greater success.  A careful review of the programming and testing of the camera operation will be required before further flight.

In the mean time, the team will be updating their logbooks to reflect the new hours flown.

Below are a few pictures from the field trip.

 John B running through the pre-flight checklist.  Note the hi-tech paper rubbish sack sun screen around the computer monitor!

 John R testing the pitot tube operation

John R prepares to launch the Hawk while Barbara operates the GCS

Barbara monitors the progress of the flight on the telemetry screen