Welcome to the Time Trust Trial contest, Round 4 (T3-4)! This round is an aerial imaging task. Here is your assignment:

Program your UAV to take photos from an altitude of ~400 feet that you then stitch together to make a single image showing an area of 500mx500m (a quarter square kilometer). Somewhere in that image, a Santa (or replica of a Santa, poster of a Santa, just you wearing a Santa hat, etc) must be seen. NO PHOTOSHOP (ie, the sample above would be disqualified)--you actually need to bring something Santa-ish to the field so your UAV can capture it in its shots (yes, I know it will be very small. Just circle the location in your image so we can enlarge and inspect--don't make us do "Where's Wally"!) This is to prove that the shots aren't actually taken from Google Earth ;-)

You can use any path strategy you want: "lawnmower", spiral, concentric circles, etc...

For stitching software, I use the free PTGui, but you're welcome to use whatever software you prefer.

And for your camera, may I suggest you hack up some cool way to trigger the shutter with our cool ServoSwitch?

KML tracks must be provided. Video is not required, but is suggested.

We've now switched to a six-week cycle, so the deadline is 12:00 midnight PST on Sunday, January 17, 2010 now Monday, January 18th due to the Martin Luther King holiday in the US.

The overall winner will be the best quality image, as decided by the judges (based on a combination of resolution, stitch quality and overall coolness--a clever Santa will win you brownie points, and a pretty area is no bad thing [note: snow is lovely, but be warned that it can confuse stitching software]), but everyone who completes the challenge will win a prize.


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Comment by Brian Wolfe on January 18, 2010 at 10:13pm
They are nice tracks Steve. What was the camera and lens?
Comment by brakar on January 19, 2010 at 5:01am
Nice stitch Steve, and cool (familiar looking ) track ;-)

Btw, what software did you use for stitching?
Comment by Steve Joyce on January 19, 2010 at 5:04am
brakar- yes I noticed you used the same flying pattern. I call it the "zamboni" pattern, you know the machine that cleans the ice on a hockey rink. It makes a lot of sense for small areas with narrow strips. Making smooth gentle turns into the lines helps a lot with tracking and maintaing GPS lock. With the classic meander pattern, you end up spending half the line recovering form or preparing for the turns. Of course at some altitude/spacing, a meander becomes more efficient.

I should add that the mosaic generation was done with photogrammetric software that can do a block adjustment and project the images into geographic coordinates so it can be displayed in google earth or GIS software directly. There was no extra stretching or scaling of the result, it fits that well from the accuracy of the GPS on the plane and the camera calibration. All 289 photos are used, and it runs automatically. I would have liked to make a better mosaic with color balancing and seam blending, but I didn't have time.

Brian- I used a CHDK-enabled Canon Ixus70 (SD1000). An old camera, but they are very good for the purpose.


Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on January 19, 2010 at 6:08pm
Hi, somehow my post from yesterday was not updated.
I made 2 stiches,

White one is straighforward pattern just after the 1st snowfall this winter and has 2 traces of Santa Claus Global Services travelling north-south during dec 21th.


Green one a few days later when the snow melted, uses 'cropscan' similar to lentsika flight planner.
The green map is incomplete as the battery died too early (too many pre-flights).


Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on January 19, 2010 at 6:11pm
The landing was autonomous in teh white map,
for the green map it was automatically aborted and entered loiter overhead then landed in manual mode.
White stitch is using PTGUI, Green is using Microsoft ICE.
The latter likes smaller resolution photos, wth multi-megapix photos it is not equalizing exposition and saturation in all places.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 19, 2010 at 6:23pm
This contest is now closed. The winners will be announced in the next 24 hours, along with the challenge for T3--Round 5.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 19, 2010 at 11:45pm
Oh right, best I get on with it them ;-) I thought I recognised that style of flight Steve, just not the project information file that you posted, how did you generate that?? Automatically or by hand???

Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 20, 2010 at 12:42am
Right just awaiting absolute confirmation of autopilot for Steve Joyce and airframe from Steve Westerfield and then I will post!! Must say this round has been the hardest so far, everybody has done a great job and lots of photo stitching issues have been spoken of, very cool. Get those PMs back to me chaps.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 20, 2010 at 7:02am
Ok I have had more than one PM for the result, so without Steves airframe........ Remembering everybody gets a prize this time!

Brakar is commended for trying so hard and completing a round without landing in a tree, Brian demonstrated why he needed that disguise from earlier, living near the planet of the Apes as he does, everybody did a top job!!

Now the overall standings after four rounds:-

Vassilis 24
Brakar 23
Brian Wolfe 21
Mark Griffin 18
Krzysztof Bosak 17
Andrus Kangro 12
Jesse Jared 8
Bill Premerlani 6
MarcS 6
Joe 6
Steve Joyce 5
Steve Westerfield 3
Chris Anderson 3
Icebear 1

Well done again everybody, I think the next round will appeal to a larger portion of the crowd Chris will announce it soon! If you have not already guessed.

Comment by Brian Wolfe on January 20, 2010 at 8:24am
Congratulations every body. This was a great round. These rounds are really helping me get the features added to my auto pilot. I probably would have stalled a bit if not for them.

I'd also like to note that I also didn't land in a tree. The fact that there are no trees on Mars should not diminish your admiration for that fact.

And finally, as a Damned Dirty Ape who knows flight is impossible I feel I've stretched the limits of my belief system by even attempting this.

Looking forward to the next round,


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