After a day of torrential rains -- apparently atypical for Mackenzie country -- we were treated to a beautiful day today that allowed us to complete all of our test flights. We wanted to ensure that the drones could all pass a handful of tests before taking them on the glacier, including (1) a return to launch, aka return to home base, that we would need in case the battery appeared to be running too low to finish the mission; and (2) loitering and dropping in altitude in case a low-flying helicopter was approaching our flying zone.
We were also interested in range testing the telemetry radio signal strength, and were quite pleased to find that we could fly up to 3km from home base and maintain 99% signal strength.
Finally, we added the camera into the drone, and surveyed a little over a square kilometer covering the Tasman River valley.
With all of these tests completed without a hitch (well, almost without a hitch -- as you can see in the pictures, we did have a landing in a very spiky matagouri bush!), we're feeling cautiously optimistic about beginning our surveying of Tasman Glacier tomorrow. The plan is to survey and photograph regions 2km on each side with each flight, moving down glacier (towards its terminus) after each flight. The stakes will be a little higher, as it will not be easy to retrieve the drone if it happens to crash land on the glacier, but all the tests we performed today indicate that we should be able to stay in the air without a problem.
Now, it's time to get our computers crunching on the DEM of the glacial valley from our test flight today, and we're off to the glacier tomorrow!