A big disapointment....

09 May 2014

A big disapointment....

In getting ready to (finally) fly the UAVs from the Diplodus, space is made on the deck by removing the WaveGlider by the crew. The WG also had to have its electronics box replaced, so having it on shore was critical. The UAV team was excited in finally getting to sea...!
Joel and Fortuna meanwhile get started on the front deck to assemble an X8 in anticipation of a flight from its deck. The Diplodus is still on the dock.
This composite pretty much says it all. Shot by Artur Zolich from the dock, it shows the R/V Diplodus with a thrilled Joel heading out to sea. And then.....discovering a problem with its propulsion when still in the harbor. And having to turn back. Image at the bottom shows a none too happy Margarida and Fortuna with the crew.
Back at the dock in Olhao, the captain and the crew decide to pull out a part from the bowls of the vessel and discuss the outcome, which turned out to be bleak. First, a cancelation of that days cruise, followed by a non-determinate future sailing. Everyone is dashed and the FEUP crew are forced to return to the farm house subsequently.
Meanwhile, just across from the docks, Nuno, Lara, Ana and Francesco pay a visit to the holding tank on shore with some Mola's. These are our mighty backup Sunfish, should no Molas be trapped in the Tuna pen off-shore.
Meanwhile, just across from the docks, Nuno, Lara, Ana and Francesco pay a visit to the holding tank on shore with some Mola's. These are our mighty backup Sunfish, should no Molas be trapped in the Tuna pen off-shore.
The team of Bruno, Marina, Renato,  Jorge and Tiago working late into the day to get the ARGOS tags out of the lab at FEUP.
With rapid contingency plans made in the farm house on the return, Joao talks to friends in the local Maritime Police, who are more than helpful and allow us to use a remote location just off the Portuguese-Spanish border. Our friends from the Police come to watch our UAV flights with Joao and Kanna and also do traffic control.
The UAV team responds quickly and sets up launch capabilities literally in the bush and near the ocean front. We fly multiple missions and notch a bunch a successes including flying T-REX repeatedly, using both the visible and IR camera (for the first time) and finally using the Pan/Tilt unit for long range and higher altitude flights. A massive sigh of relief for the team!
Margarida and Filipe Ferreira who had arrived just that morning from Porto to augment the UAV team, discuss the positioning of the Pan/Tilt unit.
Filipe configures the launcher. All the while, passers by were curious about the ongoings but did not stop to inquire with our friends from the Maritime Police perhaps dissuading them.
Filipe and Joel launch the first X8 mission.
A landing on the rough road with a good headwind to slow down the effects of grazing the bottom (remember no wheels on the UAV), Margarida and Joel recover the X8 after a successful flight. Confidence slowly increased....
More flying with Joel, Margarida and Fortuna at the helm. The set up, as can be seen, is very impromptu.
After the not-too-soft a landing, Joel lands an X8 in the (dried) swamp, successfully.
The Police officers show a lot of interest in how Fortuna controls the X8 using Neptus. Lots of questions ensue.

Friday May 9th seemed like another day with the UAV team doing the honors of waking up and leaving the farm house early to get onto the R/V Diplodus to get their shot at claiming readiness on the vessel. But there was a lot of dissapointment in store.....


On arrival at the dock at Olhao, Artur Zolich's task was to coordinate the removal of the WaveGlider from the deck of the Diplodus, both to get the UAV team valuable deck space to land with a net (a better one from the one on shore) and also to install the much anticipated electronics box from Liquid Robotics from California, which had gotten stuck in customs. With that out of the way, the UAV team eagerly set up getting ready to fly as the vessel was readied to head out. Barely 50 meters from the dock, the captain noticed a problem and (the smart guy he was) turned the vessel around and returned to the dock on reduced power. A determination was made that this was a serious condition and therefore the cruise had to be cancelled! Worse, the captain determined that this needed further analysis and could not give a return time to sea. Needless to say, this was a major blow to all.


Joao and the crew returned to the farm and we caucused. We quickly decided that we need to keep the momentum and keep flying. A few calls and friends in the local Maritime Police with jusdiction of the beach areas was arranged. We really needed to get on the water and see how the cameras behaved, not something we could have done with tests from near the farm house.

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Off the UAV crew went to a (literally) remote corner of Portugal, in the border lands between Portugal and Spain at its tip near the town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio; the map above shows the black line as the border mid-river. We were right next to it, but careful in operating in Portuguese air space.

The team quickly set up gear and lo-and-behold flights commenced. In rapid fire till late in the evening at 7.45pm, the team flew a number of missions and chalked up sucess in using T-REX, the IR camera and the Pan/Tilt unit, all crucial tests that needed to be done! While not exactly what we had in mind, this was indeed very good for morale. With thanks to the Maritime Police.


Meanwhile, back in Porto, Renato who had left the previous night continued to slog thru building more ARGOS tags at the lab in FEUP. Helping him were Marina (who is also doing outreach activities), Jorge Nieva, Tiago Rodrigues and Bruno Loureiro. By working late into the day, they've managed to recover from the delayed deliveries of the tags and also incorporating design feedback from the test tags deployed on Mola's which haven't really worked well. 


Joao and Kanna stayed over for a late night dinner (we were close to the Spanish border after all) with the captain of the Maritime Police, Pedro Borges, who gave a great insight into his daily challenges (and satisfaction) of being a public servant in this very touristic corner of Portugal. And then to bed well past midnight!