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Robotics

FLIR thermal imaging gives a new view of robotics club

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Thanks to the generous support of the FLIR corporation, we are using FLIR thermal imaging to get a different window into the lives of whales.  FLIR offers a data analysis software package called Research I.R. This package allows you to interrogate information captured by the FLIR cameras.  Our new friend Chris took some photos during our last robotics club meeting and here is his analysis:

The photo above of kids working on their racing drones was taken at the weekly robotics club meeting. We used FLIR’s Reasearch I.R. software to analyze the photo, which was taken with the Zenmuse XT camera. Look at all the data we get from the photo!

FLIR’s ResearchIR software allows us to get the temperature value for every pixel in a still image taken by the Zenmuse XT camera. That’s 327,680 individual temperature values. The goal is to use this technology to take the body temperature of a whale by imaging the blowhole as the whale surfaces for air. Recording the temperature of a whale is something that has never been done. With new drone and thermal imaging technologies from DJI and FLIR, Ocean Alliance will be able to collect so much more data about a whale’s health than researchers have ever been able to get before.

Robotics Club at Rockport High

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Wednesday night we had a great Paint Factory Fliers flight night in the Rockport High School Cafeteria. Many thanks to Rockport High for allowing us to use the space. It was a lot of fun to be flying again, and the cafeteria had the height and space we needed to make the most of our micro drones.

We flew three principal drones; all had First Person View (FPV) cameras so you fly wearing a headset (Fatshark or similar) so you feel as if you are in the drone. Our main drones were:

Tiny Whoops
Baby Hawk
Nano QF
As a bit of fun I also flew (but only in hover mode) the E Flite X-Vert VTOL airplane
Alex also had a foamy quad but I cant remember its name.

The first curve ball of the evening was that when I looked at the cafeteria as a potential flying space it was just an open room, last night it was full of tables with turned over chairs sitting on them. On the up side, our maneuvering skills got a real workout. The High School custodian, Peter, could not have been more helpful, and soon we had tables covered with drone controllers, batteries, FPV headsets, and spare parts.

Alex Monell created a number of foam hoops for us to fly through; they sat on their own mounting poles in the middle of the tables, and we soon had a counterclockwise race circuit flying through these hoops (for those who wanted it). After a few runs, Alex reminded us that the hoops had lights in them, so we turned off most of the room lights and continued flying / racing in the dark. My old eyes struggled but the PF Fliers did not seem to have any problems.

I imagine if you just walked into this darkened room hearing the sounds of crazy mosquitos with flashlights flying around you would wonder what was going on. What was going on was a good time being had by all. Thank you again to Rockport High and Peter.

Onwards. Upwards.

Iain

 

CEO Iain Kerrflies the Mavic Pro while at the Parley conference in the Maldive. (Photo: Christian Miller)

CEO Iain Kerr checks in from the Maldives

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CEO Iain Kerrflies the Mavic Pro while at the Parley conference in the Maldive. (Photo: Christian Miller)

CEO Iain Kerr flies the Mavic Pro while at the Parley conference in the Maldive. (Photo: Christian Miller)

I am very lucky to be in the Maldives Islands as part of Parley Ocean School.  I am here with five other Ocean Ambassadors, Emily Penn, Kahi Pacarro, Christian Miller (SnotBot team member), Mike Long, and Maldivian Shaahina Ali with the Park Hyatt Hadahaa.  Sitting down and just having a meal with these folks is amazing, spending almost a week with them is an educational experience and then some.  What I found enlightening is that even though the team represents people from around the globe — Emily in Britain, Kahi from Hawaii, Christian from Australia, Mike and me from mainland USA — our stories, passions and goals are amazingly similar.

One of the reasons I am enjoying this program so much is because of its scope; it’s not often that you join a program that has a local, national, and international perspective. Every evening there are lectures on the boat on ocean plastics, ocean pollution etc, every morning we go out and have an ocean experience, and then every afternoon we have workshops, beach clean ups, or meet with local school kids, educators, and policy makers. We are here with over 20 staff from the Adidas Corporation. Adidas this month (in collaboration with Parley) will be putting on the market 1 million shoes made from ocean plastic. I plan on buying mine as soon as I get back.

Considering that the Adidas team represent people from across the corporation — design, finance, marketing, logistics, etc. — the workshops and discussions we been having as it relates to commerce, plastic and our oceans have been very educational and I think empowering to all.

Iain and other Parley Ocean School attendees took more than 60 Maldivian school kids out on a reef to snorkel -- some had never snorkeled before.

Iain and other Parley Ocean School attendees took more than 60 Maldivian school kids out on a reef to snorkel — some had never snorkeled before.

Going into the local schools and talking to kids about oceans and plastic pollution has been fantastic; two days ago more than 60 kids experienced three different ocean lectures at their school, and then we took them out onto the reefs to snorkel – many had never snorkeled before, but you can be sure that they will do so again.  As I write this blog another 60 plus kids are out on the reef with the Adidas team and Parley. Yesterday we had two soccer games against a local woman’s team and a men’s team, I think that the local teams had practiced more than ours so we won’t discuss the score.

A theme of the trip is the Parley initiative AIR. Avoid-Intercept-Redesign, I encourage you to read more about it here.

I did of course bring a drone with me to the Maldives; right before I left I received one of the newest drones from DJI — the Mavic Pro — and I am smitten.  This is the smallest drone DJI has ever made, but it has (most of) the capacity of a Phantom 4.  I would not have brought a larger drone like a P4 to the Maldives, just too much gear to lug half way around the world. I have already taken the Mavic Pro with me on a couple of excursions where I would not have taken a larger drone (attached photo of kids Snorkeling).  As far as I am concerned the foldable design and consequently resulting in ease of use/portability along with a 4K camera and 24 min plus flight time makes the Mavic Pro the current leader in the market for enthusiasts like me (we bought this drone it was not donated).  We will be trying out the Mavic Pro as a SnotBot platform in early 2017. I think that the very light footprint of the drone might mean more snot is collected in our petri dishes on top of the drone by the rotor vortex’s (more on that later).

With drones on my mind, next Monday I am flying from the Maldives to LA then Silicon Valley, CA, to give two talks at Drone World Expo.  I will send at least one more blog from the Maldives before I leave and will be sending a blog from DWE.

All the best from the Indian Ocean.

Iain Kerr

Spring is the Air – and so are SnotBots!

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As the conference paper writing the team has been engrossed in wrapped up last Friday the 27th, the team decided to take a break and get back into the swing of things by pulling out the equipment and having a “fly day” on Sunday featuring our recently added fleet member, The Bullfrog, and our new pal the IRIS+ (affectionately named Morticia).

snot2

Morticia sitting on the paving stones in ‘The O’ on Olin College’s campus.

Along with new fleet members, we also have welcomed several new team members to the fold at Olin College, who are looking to work on everything from software to electrical systems, and hardware modifications to fleet vehicles and accessories.

Professor Bennett and team member Rocco (‘18), connecting Morticia to the ground station (the computer). This will enable flight data to be recorded, and failsafes to engage in case anything happens to the controller or radio during flight.

Professor Bennett and team member Rocco (‘18), connecting Morticia to the ground station (the computer). This will enable flight data to be recorded, and failsafes to engage in case anything happens to the controller or radio during flight.

Team Member Rocco (‘18) test flying Morticia.

Team Member Rocco (‘18) test flying Morticia.

The Olin College crew hopes to make it out to Gloucester soon to start practice flights over the water, and test the autonomy code. Right now as the semester at Olin is winding down, we’re making all the preparations necessary to make the transition to the Summer team as seamless as possible. This means finishing up our software development and hardware prototypes, documenting the work that’s been done, and getting new members trained on everything they’ll need to have a successful (and fun) summer.

Guest speaker Adela briefly explaining her time at Olin College getting what she called a “relevant education” that was hands-on and applied.

Robotics Program Director Adela Wee Speaks at Paint Factory Fliers Club

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This past week at our last Paint Factory Fliers hobby club meeting in our current robotics lab, we were very excited to have a special guest speaker – Adela Wee, our new Robotics Program Director. Adela gave an overview of how she got into technology and robotics. She described her adventures over the last decade and briefly talked through the importance of the oceans and the motivation for developing robots like SnotBot. Adela is a recent graduate of Olin College of Engineering, based in Needham, MA– a 350 person engineering-only undergraduate institution focused on developing engineers for the 21st century. She described her education there as “relevant, hands-on, and applied.”

adela2

The attentive audience standing around the screen. We barely fit at full capacity into the pod!

 

About twenty people were present– including parents and students who regularly participate in our fun building sessions. They had plenty of questions afterwards and many of these individuals voiced their interest in helping out with future SnotBot tests up in Gloucester to just talking shop about processor advances and robotics curriculum at the high school level. Adela was very impressed with the passion and self-motivation that many of these students demonstrated when it came to building their own aerial vehicles.

Thanks, Adela, for all your hard work on Snotbot and for Ocean Alliance!