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Apr 26 2012

What is Trimble up to?

I am really curious about what Trimble is up to and where the company is headed in the future. Trimble leading manufacturers of mapping and survey grade GPS equipment and software.  Earlier in the month it was announced that Trimble acquired the company Gatewing, developers of a streamlined UAV / computer vision 3D mapping system, press release here.  Today I found that Trimble is also buying Google Sketchup, Sketchup blog post here and Trimble press release here.

A 3D mapping company and a community-based 3D modeling program/warehouse in one month -- clearly massive 3D surveying and mapping are at the top of the list for Trimble.

I think this is very exciting, but what comes next?  More importantly perhaps, where do trees, vegetation and the non-built parts of local ecosystems fit into this?

Apr 26 2012

Arducopter Progresses, Octocopter Components Still Arriving

It’s been slow going with the Arducopter, working with it this semester has often seemed like two steps forward and one step back.  However after several stumbling blocks like the Ardupilot board being of the older model now, and  ailing Electronic Speed Controllers:  things are starting to look up!

I was able to update the Arducopter to four brand new ESCs, since one of our big orders just came in (will get to that in a bit).   Earlier we’d had trouble calibrating the Arducopter for flight, it kept wobbling and flipping over.  I feel rather foolish now; the problem was that the ESCs were mismatched!  One had been replaced because it was suspected to be burned out.  I only yesterday realized that of course it would need four identical speed controllers to fly stabile.  Since our Octokopter order of ESCs came in, there were enough spares to outfit the Arducopter for testing.

So a new order did come in!  Our large order from DIYDrones is now in the lab: it included ESCs, propellers, power distribution boards, and Ardupilot boards.  Combined with our previous order from Aeroquad (Mikrokopter OctoXL Frame), we now have most of the components to build an Octokopter, and enough spare parts to build a second one (minus what we’re still waiting on.)  The jDrones order went out yesterday; it was mostly parts that have been out of stock until now.  This order includes the last set of components we’ll need to make a working Octo, the motors.

Things are looking good for the next gen of Ecosynth aircraft; at this point I think that Octokopter work will start as soon as summer research starts, when aircraft moves into the bigger lab.

Apr 25 2012

Finishing up Herbert Run

Saturday April 21st  , Shelby, Dana and I went out to Herbert Run and were able to get a lot done in in the field. We were able to set a decent amount of control points as well as make progress during the stake-out by obtaining roughly 8 more points. The points we were able to get were the ones on the far Eastern edge of Herbert Run 168-175. This leaves us with about 8 or so points left that need to be mapped out and I am convinced that with Dana's help today and a little help Friday that I will be able to complete the Survey either Saturday or Sunday at Herbert Run. Then next week I can do the complete Survey for The Knoll.

This data collector is helping a lot. At Landesign Inc. the data collector I used was no where near as nice as this one is. It can connect to the internet, which could make stake out really convenient. As displayed in the picture on the left the Trimble actually pulls up a complete map of the Survey that I will do. The points you see on the screen are the ones that I have loaded in. It also has my control points which you can see towards the top left of the screen as point numbers 4004 and 4005 These are my traverse 1 and traverse 2. This will be how I establish my traverse loop which because of the small size will probably have quite a small amount of error.

I am considering using existing control at Herbert Run to create control at the Knoll. Since I have specific coordinates for the traverse at Herbert Run I can use those to Run control down to The Knoll. This just means that I will have two traverse loops obviously the one that connects HR to the Knoll is far larger than the one that will be specifically for HR, which entails more error but we can distribute that error evenly throughout the loop and it will be fine.

Finally I am going to need to create the Grid points in GIS this week for The Knoll so that Monday I can get started on that.

Dana also had a great idea when we were out in the field she proposed that we use the GPS to guide us to the points that we are trying to survey. Sometimes these points are in the worst locations such as the points around 170 in Herbert Run and it can be a major hassle trying to read the map and decide what direction and how far is needed to pace to the next point. With the GPS we could get a much better rough estimate of where the next point to be staked out is, for those points that when using the map and actually walking through the forest are impossible to just pace to. This is the situation for large fallen trees in the way, large increases in elevation and streams.

Apr 17 2012

Rendezvous with Brian Wagaman

I was able to get in touch with Brian Wagaman on Friday April, 13th 2012. What we had landed on was that I will meet him at Keystone precision on April 19th, 2012. I sent Brian Wagaman an email of Dr. Ellis email regarding billing for the data collector rental. When we get together on Friday Brian has agreed to instruct me on how to establish a network of control points via the traverse method with the data collectors that Keystone has available. This instruction will be completely free, the only charges will be for those of the data collector. I was going to ask if it is ok to take the instrument home Friday at the meeting Wednesday, Brian and I will use it for a couple hours then on Saturday I will work a twelve hour day Surveying the Bananas out of Herbert Run. I will need two volunteers for two shifts because I do not think anyone person should have to help me for more than six hours. the week following that I will have a gap between exams that will allow me to do the Knoll so it would be best to rent the data collector from Friday April,19th 2012 up till Monday April 30th that way I will definitely have ample time to finish the survey. 

I believe that this will dramatically increase productivity because I will not have to wait on control points. It will speed up the process ten fold. The survey of both the Knoll and Herbert Run should be complete by 4/30/2012.

I could have met up with Brian on Monday but I was swamped with two exams this week therefore I thought it would be best to rent the data collector for a short amount of time instead of just having it while paying for it and not actually using it for any surveying work.

Apr 11 2012

Herbert Run West Surveying & Keystone Rental -- Updates

Saturday April 7th, Shelby and I went out to Herbert Run to stake out some more points on the western portion. We were able to get seven points that are all in the area pictured on the left. A lot of this area was really difficult to get because of the amount of brush that was online but we were able to get them all from a one of the new points that Will had RTK GPS located.

I went to Keystone Precision this morning to ask about renting data collectors, it turns out that they do rent out data collectors and they also give out software packages for them. The rates seem fairly inexpensive at $42.50/day, but they do not rent out prisms. I explained our situation and the sales representative generously said they would let us borrow a prism if we rented the data collector.

The data collectors are called the Ranger, which has a software package called Survey Controller and the TSC2  which has a software package called Survey Pro.

They also had an option to rent an entire total station plus rod set up for $120/day.

The representative at Keystone said that if I were to talk to Brian Wagaman I would be able to have a lot of my questions, (such as information pertaining to the stake out options of the data collector ) , answered.  I vaguely remember the survey company that I used to work for, Landesign Inc, were really big fans of Brian Wagaman’s help with total station questions and data collector trouble shooting issues, he is really approachable.

I believe this is the best way to proceed and hopefully we can rent the data collector and software for this weekend so that I can finish Herbert Run and the Knoll. I can call Brian tomorrow about the data collector rental and hash out the issues with him.

Apr 10 2012

123D Catch: Realistic Small Area Scanning

One set of software I've come across for forest mapping is 123D Catch.  What it does is takes an orbit of photos taken around a central point and processes out the common points between them, much like Photoscan.  The difference being, 123D Catch is optimized for mapping solid surfaces into a mesh.  What's more, the mesh is photorealistic.  So while the mesh does have a certain margin of error, the photorealistic view of the subject tricks the eye into thinking the 3D representation is a perfect facsimile of the original.

This scanning technique is more applicable on a small scale than a larger one such as Ecosynth pursues, but is useful nonetheless.  The larger the area scanned into 123D, the less accurate the dimensions of the resulting mesh are.  It also only works well on tree trunks and large objects like stones, the software that stitches the mesh together cannot resolve small objects like twiggy tree branches, and they end up as amorphous mixtures of tree and background.  Its uses include keeping a digital record of precious sites or phenomenon before they are disturbed by human intervention.

The following video is a scan of a stand of trees, with surrounding trees and forest included in the background. 

Apr 09 2012

First Test of PVC Markers


On Thursday 4/5/2012 Jonathan and I went to HR with 2 other students to attempt to lay out the PVC pipe that will mark the 5x5 meter grid. Our plan was to lay a reference string between 2 of the serveyed points in the 25x25 meter grid. Once this was done we could measure 5 meters along this line with our wooden poles, string, and line levels to help ensure accuracy. We secured a string between the two wooden poles measured at 5 meters We would than insert PVC poles like the ones to the left at these 5 meter marks. However when we finished our first 4 points and came to the known survey point we were anywhere from 10 to 30 cm off. This was too much inaccuracy and we quickly saw that the string connecting the two wooden poles could flex, this being our cause of inaccuracy, we determined we needed a more rigid material to connect the poles. Back at the lab we found some thin metal wire and after attatching this to the wooden poles and retesting the same strategy as before the accuracy was greatly improved, at most we had a 1 to 2 cm innaccuracy with most of the corner points we plotted landing directly on the survey point.

Apr 04 2012

Hexakopter Flying and Testing the GoPro

Stephen and I practed flying the hexakoptors.  We were able to fly Roflkopter (one of the hexakopters) from the lab to the library, over the library and adjacent garage, and land on a 2ft by 2ft board.  In addition to the lirary expedition, we also practiced maneuvering the hexakopters, landing on a target, and getting them flying at the correct altitude.  Furthermore, we used the GoPro camera to capture video and pictures of the flights.  (The camera was mounted on the hexakopter.)  Unfortunately, the pictures had a lot of compression (as can be seen by the picture to the left that was taken in the lab).  Next week we will be testing to see if adjusting the setting will yield better images.

Below is a link to a video from the GoPro as we flew through Academic Row.  The first half of the video is with the distortion and the second half is the cleaned-up version.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtPkQShCR8c&context=C451b577ADvjVQa1PpcFNA2j44Y1Kwcn_6Rdo149XVXfaZn7cl70E=

 

 

Apr 02 2012

Surveying The west side of HR

On Saturday March,31,2012 Dana and Shelby joined me in the field for a day of Land Surveying. Will Wiley was not able to come out this weekend and give us the points that we need to finish the survey but In the mean time Jonathan and I had decided it best to use this bottle neck as an opportunity to get the west side of the site done. We started with the points that were near the dam and moved East Until we ended up adjacent to the east side of the grid. We were able to get 18 points done that day between the three of us which leaves only 22 points left for this part of the grid. I will email Will Wiley again after this Wednesdays Ecosynth meeting to get an update about when a good time for him to go out to the field would be.The weather that day was really nice it was a bit over cast ( I managed to get a tan though!) and it stayed relatively calm with respect to the wind. This calmness made some of the points easier to get.Point number 102, in the thick of the brush, would have been nearly impossible on a really windy day. I really appreciated having two people out in the field to help me it seemed like things were able to go alot smoother just because we had extra hands to carry things. The point that seems to be in the middle of the dam 111 I did not put in because it seems like the contractors will come and clean that dam out periodically and it seemed futile to actually put this point down because of the constant grade changes that are likely to happen here. Hopefull we can finish the rest of the grid this weekend and have WIlls help this weekend also to get some new control points.