A computer glitch has meant that Prof. John B. has been locked out of this blog for the last fortnight.  After many frustrating attempts, access has been restored.

This comes just in time: the Hawk and GCS have both been sent to the Antarctica New Zealand base in Christchurch for transport down to the ice.  Our new Fox UAV and a spare GCS have also been sent to Christchurch.

Skycam UAV have been very generous sponsors of our research, loaning us spare wings, repair items, replacement spars, batteries and motor, together with a complete GCS, so that should we have problems down there, we can continue to collect data.

Prof. John B will travel to the ice to take part in the K020 deployment as part of the New Zealand Terrestrial Antarctic Biodiversity Survey, using the UAVs to collect data on cyanobacterial mats in the Taylor dry valley.  This is a proof-of-concept project.  Using the vegetation stress camera and the two Sony NEX5-N cameras, the UAVs will survey the lake margins.  This is all new to John; he is a microbiologist, but has never worked on cyanobacteria, nor has he been to Antarctica before, so the 3 to 4 week deployment will be a steep learning curve.  This has been complicated by the unfortunate accident in which the AUT project leader broke his ankle, which ruled him out of travel to Antarctica this year.  However, if all goes well, the UAVs may be depolyed in future expeditions.

Since leaving Auckland, John has spent two days with Dr. Tim Brooks of Skycam UAV, training on the Fox.  The Fox is rather different from the Hawk, being a tailless aircraft, and is considerably easier to operate.  A different pre-flight checklist is used, but the GCS software is exactly the same, so type conversion is very straightforward.  As usual when John goes to the Manawatu, the weather conditions were not very conducive to UAV operation, but Tim and John achieved six training flights, collecting a large number of nIR and RGB images of part of the D522 area in Pahiatua.  The next flights will be down on the ice.  At least there are no trees there!

John hopes to keep colleagues and other interested UAV operators informed of the progress of the project via this website.