Aerial video from drone test flights now on YouTube

Care for a flight above the cornfields of Champaign, Ill.? Now on the DroneJournalism YouTube feed is approximately 25 minutes of on-board, aerial video from test flights.

These videos are from a series of eight drone test flights from August 18 to September 23. During these tests, several aspects of this fixed-wing unmanned aerial system were tested, including battery duration, GPS guidance and functionality, as well as autopilot stabilization. The brain of this drone is an Arduino-based microcontroller equipped with gyros, a GPS receiver, a barometric pressure sensor, and a magnetometer.

Descriptions before each flight video offer some insight into what was going on during each test. For instance, the GPS was malfunctioning on several tests, which made in impossible for the drone to navigate waypoints or accurately log flight data. The GPS problem was eventually fixed by installing a stronger receiver.

In the last clip of the segment, the drone takes a hard landing in the grass and is actually broken in two. A new fuselage was ordered for the aircraft, but JournoDrone 3 remains in repair. Teaching high school students to build and fly drones, and also giving lessons in microcontroller programming, has kept me occupied. But updates will be on this website when I get the drone working again.

When fully operational, this drone will canvas a designated area and take photos of the ground. With the proper computer programs, those images can be corrected and stitched to make "photomaps," or large photographs that are map-accurate. Those photomaps can be used in journalism investigations to quantify the effects of natural and man-made disasters, and also track the progression of large structures or developments.


Posted on November 30, 2012 .