Tuesday, February 21, 2017

2017-02-08: Autonomy Incubator Transforms PIs into Pilots

In pursuit of greater efficiency and a deeper understanding of unmanned flight, three intrepid Ai members– Jim Neilan, Ben Kelley, and Matt Vaughan– have volunteered to become UAV pilots. This month marked the beginning of their training under the guidance of Zak Johns, our resident UAV pilot. With more people available to serve as safety pilots during flight tests, we're looking forward to faster turnarounds and decreased demand on Zak as the only (but still best!) pilot around.

"Zak has been a scarce resource," Ben explained. "Whenever we need a safety pilot, we're all competing for his time and his effort, and he has other jobs to do... whenever repairs need to be made or new builds or things like that, Zak's the one who gets tasked with those."

Kyle McQuarry, Matt, and Ben learn how to break down the Hive.
The first day of the introductory course was entirely classroom-based to cover every aspect of UAV assembly and maintenance, from how to check if a motor needs to be replaced– twist it in your fingers and "feel the cogging," Zak says– to the correct way to charge a lithium-polymer battery. Sayer Fisher, lead engineer of the Hive (and former Ai intern!), demonstrated how to take the vehicle from storage position to flight readiness.

Sayer locks one of the Hive's arms in place with screws.
Ralph and Jim examine a prop during class.
After the classroom intensive, the next day focused on hands-on flight instruction. Zak started Jim, Ben, and Matt on small quadrotors to let them get used to the controls, then worked them up to flying the big research vehicles like the Orevkon quadrotor or the Hive by the end of the afternoon.

Danette and Zak co-pilot.

Ben gets into the flight range to train with Zak's large hexrotor.
Jim flies the Hive.

No comments:

Post a Comment