100km of across-glacier flights completed!

 

We completed our first flights over Tasman Glacier today! Our launch and landing site was about an hour hike past the end of the road -- a walk made slightly more challenging by the fact that we were carrying all of our gear on our backs. But once we arrived, the weather was perfect: sunny, clear, and almost no wind. 

The beginning of our hike towards our field site. The Sky Hunter is packed up in the tall box on Brian's back.

The beginning of our hike towards our field site. The Sky Hunter is packed up in the tall box on Brian's back.

Brian setting up the ground station, and Tom adding the tail to the Sky Hunter.

Brian setting up the ground station, and Tom adding the tail to the Sky Hunter.

Tasman Glacier is approximately 2km across, with steep moraine walls on either side, meaning we had to be extra careful to make sure we didn't crash into the moraines at the edges of our domain. Since Mission Planner (our autopilot software) relies on google earth images as the basis for its maps, our fingers were crossed that the google earth topography would be accurate! But just to be sure, we stayed 200-300m away from the cliffs. 

Overall, the take-offs were pretty easy, although it's always a little scary seeing the drone make it's first forays over the glacier! Due to the steep and loose nature of the moraine walls, a drone lost on the glacier may become a drone lost forever, as foot travel on Tasman Glacier can be quite dangerous. Landings were slightly more challenging, because of the boulders that were strewn throughout our landing field, but all of them ended up being successful, and the Sky Hunter survived unscathed. 

Karen designing the next mission.

Karen designing the next mission.

In total, we did three flights from our ground station location, each spanning the 2km of Tasman Glacier and 1-2km along glacier, depending on how far we had to fly from our ground station to get to the beginning of our survey block for the flight. The flight transects were chosen to have 80% overlap between photos, ideal for construction of the DEMs. With all of these transects, the Sky Hunter successfully flew over 100km! We now have over 1000 photos with which to create a first DEM.


Tom deconstructing the Sky Hunter -- and showing off his 3D robotics kit.

Tom deconstructing the Sky Hunter -- and showing off his 3D robotics kit.

At the end of the day, we were all smiles, and the hike back down the mountain didn't feel quite so long! Tomorrow, we'll return to fly over the lower portion of the glacier -- including Tasman Lake.