Flying our drone [pictures, video]

Yesterday Ate Poorthuis and I had some practice in flying our new drone or quadcopter. This was the first time for me, although Ate had had some previous practice, and has been working on getting the drone to a flight operational status.

When it arrived, it came mostly pre-assembled.

Unfortunately you can’t just lift it out of the box and flip the “on” switch. Besides a few technical hitches (the landing legs were delayed in shipping, the battery recharger had to be reordered, etc) there was the question of figuring out how it works. This I left to the techno-savvy Ate, which he did admirably. He can go into the details of the process, hopefully as a research note for PLOTS.

Around lunchtime we started to put it together and hook everything up. Ate gave me a short demo of the flight data you can receive form the unit while it’s in flight, although we didn’t try this part during the flight testing (there are already too many joysticks and switches on the remote controller for the novice to worry about!).

With the RC unit:

See what I mean? The left joystick controls throttle and arms/disarms the rotors, and the right one the pitch and yaw.

There’s quite a lot of instrumentation on board, including GPS, sonar, but not as yet a camera as we are still putting in the flight time hours to get better control of it.

Here the rotor blades have been attached:

Here we are ready to launch:

Here’s the first flight test:

Here’s a second attempt. We tried a metal grating as a launch pad as the legs were sticking slightly in the grass:

We’ll be flying it some more in the near future. We’ll be able to attach a camera in order to take imagery from the air and composite it together to make maps and visualizations (eg using We can also program the GPS to fly it to certain spots, or to have it “loiter” in one area, taking imagery. We hope to be using this in the classroom and also for research as part of our New Maps initiative.

Update. I’ve added the kmz of our flights here.


3 responses to “Flying our drone [pictures, video]

  1. There are a couple of people in the lab here at UMBC doing UAV flight training. We’ve found that using an R/C flight simulator, like RealFlight 6, particularly with the newest expansion pack that includes a quadcopter model, is really helpful in learning how to fly the copters.

  2. Pingback: Flying our drone [pics] | Open Geography

  3. Looks like you are off to a good start! We’d be happy to process your imagery. 🙂

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