RV Jet up!

 
The RV Jet in the practice field. It had already been through its fair share of crashes, so we knew it would be tough.

The RV Jet in the practice field. It had already been through its fair share of crashes, so we knew it would be tough.

After we had a beer to mourn the loss of our Sky Hunter, we re-grouped and pulled out Brian's drone, an RV Jet. We had previously tried to autopilot the RV Jet, but were having some trouble connecting it to the ground station, so we weren't sure if it would be possible to get it field-ready in time to complete our survey. Luckily, we were able to identify a single broken wire that was giving us trouble, and returned to our practice field for some test flights after fixing the wire.

Our first flights didn't seem promising -- the RV Jet seemed to only fly in circles of radiuses that would way too large for our glacier surveying domain, and we couldn't get it to follow an autopilot mission. To make matters worse, we had a bad crash into a river bank during landing, which led to a severely bent wing. Although we were all about to throw up our hands and give up on our Tasman Glacier surveying mission, we decided that it might be worth trying to fix the wing. Tools and tape came out of the cars, and we started gluing a new spar into the bent wing to straighten it out.

Wing repair time.

Wing repair time.

Brian and Tom at the ground control station, tuning up the RV Jet parameters. 

Brian and Tom at the ground control station, tuning up the RV Jet parameters. 

This in-field repair worked astonishingly well, and we returned to Mission Planner (our autopilot software) to tune the autopilot parameters. The RV Jet is quite an agile, fast plane, and we realized that a few parameters were more appropriate for a slower drone; hence, the wide turns that the drone would take regardless of our instructions. As we tuned up the parameters, flight skill increased considerably. Not, unfortunately, to the level of the Sky Hunter, but good enough to be relatively certain we would not inadvertently crash into a moraine wall. As the sun set and the temperature got considerably cooler, we tested its range, and determined that we could fly 3km away without losing RC control. At this point, we decided that we would return to Tasman Glacier tomorrow to finish the survey -- a much more optimistic outlook than we had had just a few hours ago!

The one remaining hitch is that we lost our primary camera with the Sky Hunter. Brian's camera was not triggering with an IR signal like it was supposed to, and our backup camera wouldn't load the Canon Hackers Development Kit that we use to trigger the camera every approx. 3 seconds or so. But after a bit more fiddling, we figured out the right buttons to push, and have the camera ready for action. Tomorrow, we'll head back to Tasman, and hope to reach the terminus with the RV Jet.