We have moved! Please visit us at ANTHROECOLOGY.ORG. This website is for archival purposes only.

Oct 25 2012

We have moved to a new Blog /Community website

Dear followers, 

We have moved our blog to a new Ning community website at http://ecosynth.org/

Please join us there.  We will keep the content on this blog,  but will no longer be updating its content.

~ Jonathan

May 23 2012

Keystone Precision open house and robotic surveying.

May 23, 2012 Keystone Precision held their latest Open House. The picture to the left is of some of their Robotic Total stations. These things are pretty advanced compared to the SOKKIA SET 510 that we are being lent from Andrew Millers' lab. This total station has a 6 sided prism so that the instrument can recegnize it from any position and you do not have to continually face the prism toward the instrument. Also inside there is a radio tracking device that you set the total station and the data collector to on the same channel. From here on the Display screen is a picture of the level bubble on the instrument! this is pretty awesome because now I can know from where I am, any where in the field, if the total station is expereincing a tilt error and when it is close' like on days after a big rain when its hard to get a stable set up, I can frequently keep tabs on this and make sure it is not off level. The coolest thing about this though is that the Radio frequency that is shared between the total station and the data collector allow me to move any where I want in the field, up to 3 kilometers, and it will follow me to what ever angle I go! Also If I load up this thing full of points and choose a specfic point to stake out, since it knows the angle I need to turn based on the baseline I give it, it goes ahead and turns to the next point for me! I mean this thing totally makes surveying a one man job. This kind of surveying is what alot of independent "one man" surveycrews are turning too. A guy who I met at the Workshop actually bought one and does work on a time available basis and since he does not need employees he does not have to always have steady work for a bunch of people. He only needs enough work for himself.

I feel like this type of surveying is going to replace the old instrument man/crew chief model of the past.

May 08 2012

Arducopter Back in Flight

After a steep learning curve for Arducopter, we have it flying.  Garret left us the Arducopter after graduating, I had never so much as worked with Arducopter before.  Of course I had never worked with Mikrokopters either, but Jonathan was here to teach me everything I need to know about them.  I didn't have that luxury for Arducopter, so progress was a bit slower.

The first thing I did when Istarted working with the ardu was to load new firmware and update to the new mission planner.  Since this was all new software, the Arducopter had to be calibrated from scratch.  After crashes during motor tuning, we had multiple delays while waiting for new parts to come in.

But the Arducopter is flying now, and not a moment too soon.  With summer rapidly approaching and all the orders in, I'm going to start building the Octocopter very soon.  It gives me some assurance that I was able to get the quad Arducopter flying, since the Octocopter also uses Ardupilot.

May 05 2012

Presenting Herbert Run 25 meter grid!

Today Darryl Wise joined me and we went out to finish Herbert Run. It went smoothly and we were able to finish all the points except for one that was under and a car and one that was about a foot under water right in the middle of Herbert Run. What I would like to do now upload the points onto the computer using ArcGIS and this would possibly enable me to view the shots that I have taken in a saved data base. With the points that are in the stream, both 162 and 169 I could come out the day of the tree mapping and provide consultation about where the exact location of the point would be. There are also two off sets to each point, each of which I have recorded. 

Now that Herbert Run is finished I can start on the Knoll, May 11th 2012. The first thing that I will do is create a network of control points. When that is finished I will Start the stake out of the area. I think the Knoll is contained a little more than Herbert Run is therefore it should be topographically easier to survey.

With the use of the data collector and a solid understanding of how the survey will procede I will be able to finish The Knoll magnitudes of time faster than Herbert Run with out a doubt.

One cool thing I want to note about all this surveying that I have been doing is that all these control points that I am using are good control points that could be added to the schools data base of established control. I am not sure if an actual PLS (professional land surveyor) would need to sign of on the authorization of what is "established control" or basically just the legitimacy of the control points.

May 02 2012

First Group Field Day

On Saturday 4/29/2012 we had the first field day of the semester. The goal was to begin mapping the trees at HR and to perfect our methods. However we soon discovered that our 5x5 meter plots that had been previously marked with PVC had much more error than we anticipated. To accommodate this we mapped the trees in the corners of 25x25 meter plots because they contained the known survey points.

We managed to get 8 of the 5x5 Meter plots surveyed and ready to document. Also, we have determined a new method to plot the 5x5 meter subplots. Our error came from one main source. When we were measuring the 5x5 subplots we started by marking the perimeter. Once this was done we laid out a string across the plot and measured along the string to mark our subplot points. While the points were 5 meters apart in one direction they were not in the other. The reference string did not provide enough accuracy and would lead to a line of points which fall to the left or the right of where they should fall.

To tackle this problem we purchased a straight line laser that can shoot up to 1000ft. The idea behind this is it will give us a perfectly straight reference line. We will shoot the laser across the plot from one known perimeter point to the next and than proceed to mark the points within the plot that lay on this line. This will hopefully do away with the error that accumulates while measuring along an inaccurate reference line.

At the end of the day we learned allot about our methods and what needs to be improved. This is all a part of field work to design, test, and redesign. Hopefully we will have another group field day soon with corrected subplots allowing much more mapping to be accomplished. I want to thank everyone from the ecosynth team and volunteers who made this day possible. 

May 02 2012

Update on Herbert Run Survey

Friday and Saturday the fourth and fifth of May will be my last two days to Survey HR. Last weekend during the tree mapping party I was able to get most of the remaining points in Herbert Run but there will be two control points worth of stake-out left. I was also able to complete a traverse loop that consisted of 10 traverse and will figure out how to find the closure on them this week. As seen on the left are the remaining points in Herbert Run that still need to be surveyed. It is only about seven or eight. In order to stake out the last few points I will only need to make two more control points. Once those control points are set I will get three points from each set up. There is a chance I will need to make one extra traverse in order to obtain some points that are located near the street.

Once Herbert Run is done being surveyed I will be able to work on the Knoll. The Knoll will take way less time than Herbert Run did because I will be doing most of it during the Summer time when I have a lot more free time and also I will have the data collector. I am guessing i will be able to do about 5 points/day and in a 40 point grid that is 8 days.

I expect the whole survey which includes Herbert Run and The Knoll to take up till June 16th at the absolute latest. This is accounting for the fact that I will not always be able to find some one to help me Survey seeing as how it will be the beginning of summer vacation. I am guessing I will have some one available roughly three days/week.

May 01 2012

New 3DR Radio Telemetry System


The 3DR radio telemetry system looks very promising!  It is intended to be an improved replacement for xBee radios.  We ordered a set as soon as we heard about them.  With improved performance specs and compatibility with Ardupilot, these radios look like they'll be flying on the next generation of Ecosynth aircraft.

In addition to these radios being specced better than the xBees, we'll be using them with directional antennas (the one on the ground station will point towards the sky; the one on the aircraft will be pointed down towards the earth).  We've always had trouble with xBee communication; even during standard flights the xBees are spotty at best once the kopter is up in the air.  These radios should be a welcome improvement. 

Update: 3DR Radios have come in, and they have been successful in connecting the arducopter to the ground station in the lab.  A flight test will follow soon.

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.