We seem to have a lot of natural disasters here in Japan (eruptions, mud slides, earthquakes) and like everywhere else we are counting on UAVs to help out in these situations by producing 3D maps to improve "situational awareness" so that rescue efforts can be used effectively and eventually to actually find people.
- Test Site was Sakura-jima in Kyushu, Japan. It's an active volcano but shouldn't be confused with On-take that claimed 57 lives a couple of months ago.
- EnRoute QC 730 quadcopter which uses 340KV motors and massive 6-cell Lipo to achieve over 40min of flight time under normal conditions
- ArduCopter 3.2 on Pixhawk
- Mapping mission took 20min, the copter traveled a total of 8km including a 1.2km climb at 10m/s. The battery was at 56% after the mission was complete.
- X-Link video system (1.2Ghz)
- 2.4Ghz telemetry system based on ZigBee with very high gain antenna but no antenna tracker. You can see the telemetry connection remained pretty solid the entire time which was a major improvement over previous tests. Japan has strict regulations which don't allow the use of the RFD900.
- The camera was a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition
- The 3d reconstructions software was Agisoft Photoscan which does a good job of stitching together the images even when there's a large change in altitude.
My hope is that over the next year or so we get to the point where we can:
- Include a companion computer with a modified version of Tridge's Outback challenge software to automatically recognize people or objects that stand-out from the background.
- Send groups of vehicles (probably mostly copters) to cover more area in the same amount of time without adding anymore people to the flight crew.
- Incorporate IR cameras for night-time flights because rescue efforts currently seem once it gets dark leaving people stranded on the mountain until morning.
- Get the vehicles travelling closer to the face of the mountain using LIDAR sensors and Terrain Following.
- Find people by narrowing in on their cell phone signals (?)
Thanks to EnRoute and Tohoku University for including ArduCopter and the APM/Pixhawk in their S&R efforts.