This week, Prof. John spent two days with Skycam UAV in Danger Area 522 doing some advanced training with the Fox UAV.

Drawing on its military origins, the Fox can act as an aerial relay station for communication between two ground control stations.  By the same token, the aircraft can be controlled from either GCS, while the non-controlling unit can monitor the flight.

On the first day, the Fox, now fitted with larger capacity batteries was launched and flown locally from our regular airfield on a farm in D522.  Text communication between two GCS units was tested and control was handed back and forth before the aircraft was landed.  When we took off, the Fox measured the wind speed at between 25 and 30 kph, but by the end of the flight, it was gusting 50kph.  The Fox was able to deal with this, but the conditions would not be suitable for collecting good images.  Lew Woods of Skycam decided to land the Fox in Partial Control mode - the operator has control over heading and throttle setting, while the autopilot assists by stabilising the aircraft.

On the second day, the conditions were much more gentle and Dr. Tim and Prof. John launched the Fox from our regular airfield  in D522, while the away team of Rene and Lew headed to Lew's farm on the edge of D522.  The Fox flew around the airfield conducting a photo survey before we commanded a new waypoint overhead Lew's farm.  The away team were informed that the Fox was en route and they monitored the progress of the flight on their own GCS.  As the Fox flew over the waypoint, we put our GCS into 'Listen' mode and the away team captured the aircraft and took control for the landing.

After a battery change, the Fox was relaunched, conducted a photo reconnaisance of Lew's farm and then sent back to our location.  The procedure was reversed and we took control of the Fox about 1000m out from the target, bringing the aircraft down for a conventional parachute recovery.

The exercise was a total success, with one or two lessons learned about the actual handover process and message relay.  A nice little surprise awaited us as we recovered the Fox and opened the hatch to turn the systems off.  Nestling inside the fuselage was a note with a message "Greetings from the A-team".  Perhaps a rather expensive way of delivering a smiley face, but a nice touch!