01 March 2009
- Flying the atmospheric sonde wingset at the Pawnee National Grasslands (PNG) for the CoCoNUE experiments.
The CoCoNUE experiments completed yesterday were an excellent learning experience for field deployments. We deployed in the SE corner of the COA region between prescribed ground station (GS) points 6 and 8, along CR 69 about 1.5 mi north of HWY 14. We had two successful two flights of NexSTAR-3 using the sonde wing. The second flight also had a successful automatic landing.
NexSTAR-3 Flight 1
Flight Time: 24.74 mins
Autonomous Flight Time: 22.07 mins
Two tracker teams were deployed. Launch was uneventful. After orbiting several minutes just north of the GS at 900-ft AGL, NexSTAR was commanded to fly north, along CR 69, about 1.5 mi to CR 69, then west about 2 mi along CR 96. Two tracker teams were deployed and kept eyes-on NexSTAR. One tracker team was able to continuously track, using 7x50 binoculars up to a distance of about 3 mi. During the flight a low-flying (estimated about 1500 ft) twin-engine GA traversed the left edge of the COA space flying almost due south. The north tracker team first heard, then saw the GA and reported to the GS. Separation was such that no avoidance was required. The NexSTAR returned to base. After an auto approach, Tom took over at about 10-ft altitude and manually landed.
NexSTAR-3 Flight 2
Flight Time: 25.64 mins
Autonomous Flight Time: 24.70 mins
For this flight, NexSTAR was radio-leashed to a WiFi node on the Tracker-4 vehicle with Tracker-2 following to keep eyes on the UA. Launch was uneventful; NexStar was climbed to about 900-ft AGL, then switched to auto-leash. Tracker-4 then drove north on CR 69. The objective was to drive to CR 104, about 5-mi north, then west on CR 104 another 2 mi, then return. Tracker-4 drove north at about 25 mph. Tracker -4 stopped at least twice on the drive north when Tracker-2 reported difficulty maintaining visual. When Tracker-4 stopped, the Tracker-4 crew was immediately able to maintain eye contact with the UA orbiting overhead. At about 4 mi north of the GS, the 900-MHz Piccolo link timed out and the UA made an immediate turnaround and headed home with both Tracker 2 and Tracker 4 following. The UA then made a clean autoland on CR 69, next to the GS.