It is another bright day in Amarillo, and it is a cold one. It 4:30 AM and 7 degrees outside. That is Fahrenheit. It is going to be another off topic day, as I am still waiting on my RVJET. I am skeptical that after ten days that I will be receiving it today. I received free shipping from china on two packages last week that arrived in just a few days. I am really disappointed that I did not pay for shipping to receive the box faster. I have to remember that I am getting a 2M wing with domed gimbal and all of the components to fly as an RC for just $350.00. I think that is an excellent value.
I want to take a few moments today and talk about what I have been up to the last few years that I have been away from drones. In 2009, when I put up the drones, my family was going through a lot of changes. We were selling our house in town and looking for a property with a few acres. We found a lovely little place with four acres North of the city. I had grown up in a agricultural community and I missed farming and raising animals for food. The truth is I dragged my wife kicking and screaming to our own version of "Green Acres". It turned out to be a very good thing for my family. So much so, that a year later my wife thanked me for bringing our family to the farm. It was wonderful. We had our animals all close enough to the house that we could walk outside and feed everyday. I took the deck off a lawn tractor and a small utility trailer and we would take feed and water to all the animals on our little farm. My daughters loved gathering eggs and appreciated that we were raising our own pigs for the freezer.
I began 2009, joining the board of a fledgling non-profit. That year we founded a one acre garden at the local food bank. It also introduced me to a dear friend that has led me to where I am today. In 2011, I was given an enormous opportunity. I was asked to move my family and farm off grid onto 600 acres of land. This land is an old caliche strip mine and we are trying to form a community of regenerative development. We have learned many things over the last three years. We live, a family of six, in the house you see pictured above. We have solar electric and solar water heat. Our roof catches the rainwater that we use for all of our domestic water. We are three quarters of a mile from the nearest electric line and two miles from water and natural gas infrastructure. Not having bills that increase has been a freedom that many talk about and few achieve. Not being affected when the power goes out in the area due to thunderstorms or heavy snows is incredible. Our first year at this house a water main to the city ruptured and still we were unaffected. Some people relegate this alternative style to hippies or crazy survivalist homesteaders. I can tell you that it has been the most freeing and rewarding experience of my life. It makes economic sense. It really can be as simple as that. We have dozens of goats, sheep, cows and pigs. We have two miniature donkeys and two little ponies. We have three dogs, two cats, and a parakeet. My children, especially my youngest, think that we live in paradise.
Last year, we started a year round Urban Farm and Market. We leased an 8000 square foot green house in the city. We began growing vegetables, oyster mushrooms, and even raising farmed tilapia in a variety of beds, bags and aquaponics systems. I realized that we have lost contact with our neighbors when we left the land and stopped shopping locally. I think we were strongest as a nation and leaders of the world when we were local ag based economies. We tended to interact with our neighbors a little more. We knew the owners of the stores and services that we patronized. As a result, we seemed to take care of ourselves and our families a little better. We were proud and rightfully so. It also is what has led me back to drones.
Seven or eight years ago when I first started messing with drones, I had already come from a pretty extensive RC background. I had thought it would be fun to see what the plane is seeing ever since I was 9 years old and purchased my first rc trainer. Fast forward almost twenty years and the military had been doing it for a while and so in 2006, all of the sudden everything was there available to the consumer to piece together a drone. I imagined all kinds of possibilities for use of drones in civilian airspace. So I founded Aerial Vista. We started taking pictures for real estate and construction companies. Soon we were taking live news video, and we even were able to work our way into assisting with aircraft accident investigations. With a drone we could fly the last few miles of a flight up to impact point. It gave a really unique perspective to investigators. For the first time they were able to see an accident all the way up to impact as a pilot would have observed it. It gave insight into why from a certain altitude a pilot might have chosen a particular area to make an emergency landing. Or what conditions might have existed to cause a person to react to the situation that they were faced with. We could even recreate some malfunctions to give a researcher an opportunity to participate in the accident. That is a blog I will have to write separately sometime.
Another aspect of what we were doing and what is now being done all over is ag monitoring. We were able to look at crops from an angle and with a detail never provided. We could stitch together a picture and all of the sudden we could see all kinds of information about our crops. Is an area not receiving adequate irrigation? Were the crops badly damaged in the last thunderstorm or even if there were areas of encroachment from predatory insects. We could even see lines in the crops where deer and other wildlife had invaded. It also gave us a chance to monitor our herds like never before. I knew at the time that we were really onto something. We left the drones for a while to pursue economic freedom, and now all of that has come back full circle.
Today, we find ourselves on the brink of change. We need surveying and accurate topo maps of our land so that we can plan our future development. So I thought that I could probably dust off my old planes. That would have been the simple solution. However, in my research for some updated parts I could not believe what is now available. The APM has really matured. FPV radio availability has broadened, flight stability is pretty solid and the boards have gotten faster. You can purchase a 16 core mcu board for a $100. I purchased a fully capable autopilot with accessories for two hundred dollars. It has more features than most OSD's its price class. I love what has happened with the open source projects. The community of people in this forum and like OpenTx and Openlrs are as helpful and neighborly as you would have found in any post war community in America. Perhaps more so, since we don't bring the baggage of politics, class or religion in these discussions. I have been back on the forums for a month and I have been welcomed with open arms. I get a sense of egalitarian camaraderie from participating in these forums and a chance to be part of the next big thing. That is one of the most important aspects of being part of the growing open source communities. This is what farming, drones, and off grid living mean to me.
Thank you again for reading my blog this week. I will pick up on Monday. Hopefully my plane will have come in and we can talk about setup next week. Have a safe and happy weekend!!