Migration Plane Tests 07 Dec 2012

(last update:   07 Dec 2012)

The following photos are from two separate test flights. One on 30 Nov 2012, a cold but bright and sunny day, when the record function was left off on the camera, so there was no useful test video available for photogrametry post flight. The other flight was on 07 Dec 2012, which was warmer but cloudy. On this second day the record function was activated...

Pre-flight check list might be a good idea... and perhaps a flight plan... don't you think? ... could be...

This second "foam" plane is a faster, and cheaper build. It is better to risk it, during system testing.

Test plane's right side of fuselage

Getting the wing strapped down...

Getting the wing strapped down

A few more things to hook up...

A few more things to hook up...

While the fly boys are messing with the plane and video system, the real work is in the field...

Gotta deploy the birds

The point to all the fancy hardware is to find "da-boids" (the birds on the ground). The plane is great, and fun to fly. But it's the bird migration research that counts, so Ani places some paper bird proxies in various locations... This is where the real work gets done.

Yeah... should be pretty easy to spot.

... yeah those should be pretty easy to spot.

... lets go place a few more in another location that may be more of a challenge.

Proxies at about 1km

These are on the side of the hill, about 1km away, just past a tree line, near the Witter Farm buildings. This is getting near the range limit of the aircraft, because the battery currently being used is under sized.

Now we will head back, and place some where they might be tricky to spot from the air. Not because anything is in the way but rather they may blend in well with the background...

Deploying some harder to spot bird proxies

A few more in a difficult spot

OK... back to the flight line 0.33 km away...

Seems far away...

The red circle is where the flight line is... seems like a long way away... but its more the camera lens than anything else.

The grassy knoll...

Above is a shot of everyone at the flight line, on "the grassy knoll". No... 1963 was a looooong time ago... This is the 21st century.

The dignitaries.

Above from left to right: Prof. Clay Wheeler, Prof. Bill Desisto, Chris, Perry, Brian (in a crouch) Ani (student research assistant to Prof. Holberton), and Beth Staples, a news writer for U. Maine.

With the proxy birds deployed, and the preflight of the aircraft complete, it's time to get airborn...


Above, left to right, are Ani, and Mike looking at the view from the camera in the nose of the plane. It is being displayed on Brian's Mac laptop. Chris has just thrown the plane into the air, and Brian (on the right edge of the photo) is trying to keep it off the ground.

In the air and responding well.

All systems go... Plane is handling well... Lets go capture some video from above...

As mentioned before the pictures you have been viewing are from two separate tests. The in flight photo above was on the clear sunny day, when we forgot to set the camera to record. This meant that only the low resolution, transmitted video was available for post flight photogrametry.

There are not any other photos of either test flight. This due to my lack of a suitable telephoto lens, and that I had spotter duty. A spotter is someone who keeps the plane in sight at all times, usually with binoculars. This is done in case the pilot looses the video link.

The plane does not have to fly very far before it becomes difficult to see what it is doing from the ground. If the video link is lost the pilot can't fly the plane effectively.

The fall back is to use the control system's failsafe "return home" switch. That should bring the plane back to within easy sight of the pilot. The point of the spotter is to have a visual cue if that system fails or if the pilot gets confused.

This size plane becomes a featureless blob at a few hundred meters. At the range of 1km it is, at best, a fuzzy gray dot in the sky. Even with 10x binoculars it can be difficult to find.

The point of the spotter is to have a visual cue if the return home system fails or if the pilot gets confused. Getting confused isn't very likely when there are ground cues. However, the plane will be used in marine settings, and there are times when the ocean looks the same in all if not most directions. It helps to have someone who knows what azimuth the plane is on at all times. Also if the plane crashes, it is nice to know roughly where it went down, especially if the GPS fails.

... OK... which is bird, and which is plane?

Where's the plane?

Safely back on the ground...

Safely on the ground after the flight.

Flight went well... just need to shutdown the camera. Once again left to right Beth, Perry, Ani, Mike, Clay, Bill, and Brian.

Post flight

Beth busy doing the post flight debrief.

Post flight debrief.

OK... It was a good flight.

The recorded video will be analyzed later.

It's time for some fun.

Brian brought along the U. Maine Trainer, and the buddy radio... So time for some fun flying.

But first Ani gets some ground school...

Not sure about this...

... hmmmm... not sure about this... what have I gotten myself into... he keeps babbling on about crashing...

Not so bad... I get it...

OK... I get it... that's not so bad...

Ani in the air, at the controls. Not sure... but I'd say that smile means fun.


After all those interested got a chance to fly, and all the proxy birds were collected, it's time to pack up.

Job isn't done until you have cleaned up.

... and head back to the barn.

Back to the barn.

A successful day of flight test, some recreational flying, and it all fits in the back of a Subaru wagon.

All fits in the back of a Subaru wagon.

Here's a look at where the flight took place. Thank you Google Earth.

A view from above

Many thanks to Rebecca Holberton PhD for supporting, and funding the project.