Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Drone Practice

The houses and powerlines are a
couple hundred metres away.  Wide
open spaces are a must.
Over the Easter weekend I had a chance to tag along with a couple friends out for the inaugural flight of their new 3D Robotics multirotor drone.  The ultimate goal is to use the drone to assist in archaeological mapping and overhead site photography, but on this first attempt the goal was to simply get it off the ground.  This was my first time seeing a multirotor fly and I was surprised by how quiet and stable the flight seemed, even on a somewhat gusty day.  The vehicle seems perfectly suited for aerial photography at the site level and probably larger area mapping, but it will require a lot of practice.  Being on hand to see a new operator try one for the first time really impressed on me how difficult it is to learn to use one of these safely and confidently.  It definitely requires practice in a wide open space, a steady hand, and spotters on the ground to help keep an eye out for trees and powerlines and to run interference on the throngs of kids that are attracted to the spectacle. 

Marc on the controls.  

Discussing the flight plan.

Its remarkably steady in the air, especially in "loiter" mode.

A second multirotor was on the scene as well, although it was having a bit of a rough day flying.

The drone has a pretty robust chasis, but the blades are necessarily light.  The slightest tumble was enough to break two rotors. The blades are designed to be easy to replace.

Like any aircraft - takeoffs and landings were the trickiest part.

In the air, it was very quiet and stable. I can't wait to see the results once the camera gets mounted. 

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Will it have a live feed of what it's camera is seeing back to someone who can send a signal to take a picture or turn a video camera on and off?

    1. That's a good question. I think that is possible and knowing the operator of this drone, if something is technically possible, then it will be done. My understanding is that it will have two cameras - one mounted facing down for plan views and one that can be used to see where the drone is going. I know that the camera used for piloting the drone will be hooked up via a live feed to a tablet on the ground, so it should be possible to do the same with the downward facing camera. Other options for the camera that were discussed are continuous HD filming or setting the camera on a timer to take photos at standard intervals throughout the flight.

      I believe that the whole thing can be automated as well, with preprogrammed flightpaths that follow connect known waypoints. The system is intended for aerial photography and mapping so it seems pretty good at knowing where it is and what it is doing at all times. For example, there's a little GPS on it that transmits its location to a tablet on the ground showing the drone's current location on google maps. Its fun to use, but its definitely more of a tool than a toy.

  2. Automated remote sensing-viewing technology like this can prove to be beneficial in surveying remote access sites that are otherwise difficult to access by foot or boat-unless one were to use a helicopter or floater bush plane, which arachaeologists know is both time-consuming and expensive. One site in particular that may benefit from this technology would be the Red Indian Pond site, located within the Piper's Hole watershed area, hitherto unexplored by either a land-based archaeological survey or follow-up dig.

    Local residents or settlers from Swift Current area talk about this area, which they also call Indian Pond. They insist that there is indeed the remains or vestige of an ancient living site located in the southeast corner of the pond, located on the west side of an isthmus or peninsula extending or jutting into the pond. The site is said to be located on a plateau high-above the waterline of the pond, with a lookout viewpoint extending to the west and nortwest. It is said to consist of a cut over area grown over with grass where trees were once fell for firewood and hollow depressions in the ground suggestive of house pits or habitation sites (L. Eddy personal communication, Swift Current, PB, 2002, 2011). According to elders from the neigbouring community the site takes its name from the now extinct Red Indians or Beothuk, and its is believed that the Beothuk once lived there at the turn of the 19th century, prior to abandoning the ancient site. It is also believed that the Beothuk used this site as a temporary stopover or waypoint on their migration route from the Red Indian Lake area, prior to migrating to the ancient Mi`kmaw (Ktaqmkukewaw)-Pi`tawkewaw village of Nukamkia`ji`jk. The incident (1814-9) recorded at Shoprock (Huskie Outlook), Indian (Dirty) Scrape, near Culleton`s Pond, coincides with the period of occupation, settlement and migration history for the eastern splinter group of Beothuk survivors prior to their assimilation and integration into the in situ Mc-Beo group residing at Nukamkia`ji`jk.

    The place name or toponym of Red Indian Pond does not show up on topographic maps prior to the turn of the 20th century, and may have been registered or catalogued with Department of Lands later through field note reports recorded by James Patrick Howley, while conducting a premilinary geological survey of the Piper's Hole-Black River watershed areas 1868. It is believed that Howley elicited the toponym from either John Barrington, of Indian Cove (Brown's Island, or Pike Place), PHR, PB., or Joseph Bernard (Pekitualuet), of Conne River-Piper's Hole. The features of the site described above as elicited from Swift Current elders match exactly those described by the collective oral tradition, memories, dreams and visions of living descendants of families who once lived in the area but emigrated to the Trinity Bay South area ca. 1932-4. The use of drone technology, a long awaited tool as a supplement to fieldwork surveying, is definitely a positive and beneficial asset to the field which promises unexpected and exciting results to many unexplored areas throughout NL that will open open more unknown ancient archaeological sites.


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