CanberraUAV prides itself in being a responsible civilian not-for-profit organisation; a key part of this is conducting our flying activities in a safe manner. We understand the responsibility that we have as members of the aviation community; in the spirit of that community it is important that we talk about the safety aspects of our hobby. We aborted a mission on Sunday before it had even started; here’s why
A number of flight safety ‘human factors’ began to line-up during our usual Sunday flying period at our home field. Time became compressed due to availability of key members. Due to some technical development activity, the mission was delayed until around 1130 and a significant ‘rush’ to get airborne was felt within a final 20 minute availability window. By this time heat was fairly extreme on the field (37℃+).
Stephen working on the Raspberry PiCam
A number of failures were experienced whilst setting up the bungee cord which was then modified ‘on the fly’ and was to be connected to a bungee launch mechanism that had not been tested on a live launch. Our ‘spider senses’ told us that we were about to push our luck. Only a minute or two until the launch, the group ‘called it’ and cancelled the mission before any launches were attempted.
It is good practice to maintain perspective on the situation when you fly. In this case it really wasn’t crucial to conduct that mission at that time and too many things hadn’t gone quite as planned in the preparation. Flight Safety experts talk about the holes lining up in the ‘swiss cheese’; those ‘holes’ are all individual events. When those ‘holes’ line up, or happen together, that can amount to enough issues to cause an accident. At the bleeding edge of open source UAV development accidents do sometimes happen, but we don’t just accept that crashing is ‘normal’ when we don’t need to. In this case a rushed launch could have caused a heavily damaged airframe. That would have cost money and put back imagery data collection efforts causing longer term issues for our UAV Challenge project. This way, the Opterra lives to collect another day!
Before we have even started with all of our activities in 2018 we need to say a big thank you to our outgoing Canberra UAV President, Stephen Dade. He has done an incredible job of steering Canberra UAV to success from the beginning through the 2012, 2014 and 2016 UAV Challenges. He has been the master of the unseen organisational activity that underpins Canberra UAV, along with being an exceptional contributor to our software in his own right. Stephen is stepping aside as the President of the club to let ‘new blood’ have an opportunity on the Committee.
The new Canberra UAV President is Jimmy Owens; Jimmy just really hopes that he isn’t the first President of Canberra UAV to make a mess of the UAV Challenge entry!
2018 is going to be a big year for us, with the changes to the UAV Challenge Medical Express rules challenging us to really push our technology forward. We’re hard at work trying to develop some pretty big things for the 2018 UAV Challenge. Because the rules have changed we need to make some significant changes to our imaging hardware and software. We love our Quad-Porter, but we are working hard on developing an entirely new type of aircraft, a Thrust Vectored Belly Sitter. If we can get this to work, we will be able to combine the take off and landing advantages of a ‘copter with the efficiencies of a mechanically and electrically straight forward fixed wing aircraft; that is not only useful for the challenge but for numerous real world applications.
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On Saturday 12 August 2017, Canberra UAV was invited to exhibit at ‘Science In Action’, the event launching Science Week in the ACT. We were busy all day answering questions from budding scientists and our flight simulator even drew in the Daleks!
CanberraUAV will start producing a bit more content on YouTube so that those of you who can’t get to the field on weekends, can get a feel for what we are up to. Here is a link to the first, in what will be a semi-regular series of updates: