We had our amateur UAV fly-in (the world's first?) on Saturday at the Alameda Naval Air Station. Along with my own 4 UAV's, Adam Williams brought his fully-autonomous-in-training heli, the Pict'Earth team was there with their Nokia N80-carrying Easystars, RCAPA's Patrick Egen brought a nifty camera-carrying slowstik, and we had a handful of other observers, along with the PBS film crew.

Since this was done mostly for the cameras (which can't tell the difference between autonomous and RC flight), we didn't really push the UAV envelope very far. I put the Lego UAV in autonomous mode for a minute, and I saw Adam with his hands off the controller for a while as the heli maintained position beautifully. I had the PicoPilot UAV there, but we didn't have time to fly it. And on a sad note, I totalled the Predator, which was an accident waiting to happen due to the terrible flying characteristics of the V-tail-only version. (I've now migrated the electronics to the second Predator, which has ailerons and should be much more controllable).

Most of the day was spent on optics and mapping of various sorts. The PictEarth guys showed their fantastic software that generates KML files in real time, with just a cellphone and a Bluetooth GPS sensor. Here's an example of what they demonstrated (you need Google Earth to display this).

I was testing my auto-stabilized camera mount and GPS tracker, and I must say they did better than expected. Here's some examples:

A GPS track of one test flight:

Here's the photo output of one pass mosaiced by PTGui. The camera was a Canon Digital Elph 630 (6 megapixel) at ISO 800 and continuous shooting (about twice a second). The composite below represents about fifty individual photographs.

And here's the same mosaic composited against the relevant spot on Google Earth (sorry about the white part; I need to figure out how to hide that):

Not bad, huh?

Finally, here's an example of the quality we get from each shot (click for a full-rez version). We're not quite at license plate-reading quality, but that's not bad for a six megapixel. When we swap in a ten megapixel I think we'll be there--at this point the airframe, stabilization system and camera mounts work great and it's simply a matter of using the best camera for the job.

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Comment by Patrick Egan on August 28, 2007 at 8:26am
A good time was had by all!

I still haven’t had time to process my photo’s as I’m all over the Burning Man mission like a cheep suit!
Comment by paul hubner on August 28, 2007 at 12:58pm
I sent my UAV to photograph you too, but I'm guessing it ran out of batteries on the flight out from Texas... ;-) I really wish I could have been there - Next time I will!

The Pict earth app looks pretty sweet in its "playback". Great photos all.


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