Published: April 7, 2016

Don’t know whhhhhy there’s no plane up in the sky, stormy weather, wind’s been staying high, since forever

Ok so I’m not exactly a songwriting genius.

AMF and hangar

The AMF is the small complex of containerss with the radars on the roof. This is our base of operations for the two-week campaign.

Conditions have been windy here on the north slope the past couple days. Gusts hit 51mph at the NOC camp yesterday and sustained winds offshore remained in the upper 40s. Too much wind to launch and land the Pilatus or fly the Data Hawks.

The high winds bring rapidly drifting snow. Every morning we have to wait while the road to the site is plowed out. Even then we have to return to the NOC camp in the afternoon before drifts build up again.

snow removal

A loader clears the way to "Jim's Jail", a warm storage unit near the hangar where we keep and work on our planes.

Nonetheless, work continues, Gijs and Phillip built a rig that allows them to run the POPS on the roof of the AMF. So, even though we can’t fly the Pilatus, we’re still getting data. Meanwhile, several tests were run yesterday to help pin down the autopilot communication problem on the Data Hawks and Doug fixed the issue with the loose elevons.

POPS sensor roof rig

Gijs and Phillip prepare a rig to allow running Pilatus sensors on the roof of the AMF while we wait for winds to calm enough to actually fly the Pilatus.

This morning winds calmed briefly and we made another attempt at making Data Hawk flights before they increased. On our first attempt the communications issues with the autopilot stimied all attempts to get it running before launch and we ended up doing a short flight on RC to see how the plane handled the conditions (winds were lower, not low, still blowing 25-30mph) and collect some data with the cold wire sensor. The flight was a short one, lasting only around 10 minutes but it was our first successful flight of the deployment. We had a minor mishap at landing, when a sudden gust knocked the plane into the runway and broke the prop, but it was nice to finally get a measurement flight completed.


Doug drills a hole in the runway

Flying UAS in the arctic step 1: Drill a hole for your bungee launcher stake since pounding the stake into the frozen ground is impossible.

After recovering the plane, Doug replaced the broken prop and, with help from our colleagues in Boulder, was able to fix the autopilot communication issue and we made another attempt to get an autopilot controlled flight in. Unfortunately an elevon came loose again and the flight had to be aborted. With winds building and snow drifting in again, we returned to the NOC camp for the afternoon.

Doug flies a Data Hawk

Doug flies a Data Hawk under manual control while Phillip acts as observer.