Falcon Unmanned is proud to have provided support to the Mesa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) in response to a large landslide which hit the county on Sunday night. After hearing about the event on Monday morning we loaded up a few aircraft and headed out arriving Monday afternoon. We flew one mapping mission with our fixed wing Falcon over the lower third of the landslide which is the best estimated location of three missing persons in the area when the slide hit. We launched and parachute recovered from a narrow path about 8 feet wide with tall scrub oak on either side of us. After returning to the hotel we were able to process over 750 images using Photoscan in a few hours. The processed data included updated maps with the slide, an elevation model of the slide area covered, google earth overlays, and of course the raw images. The size of the slide is just mind boggling and still hard for me to comprehend. It was 2.8 miles long, 1/2 mile wide at the widest point, and on the lower third of the slide our elevation model revealed about 20-30 feet of new elevation gain with some spots over 100 feet deep. We flew a second flight with Falcon Hover to capture some HD video to hopefully put things in perspective. When we are clear to do so we'll do another post providing the Google Earth overlay. As always we are proud to support the Mesa County Sheriff's Office!
In the wake of the recent floods in Colorado, Falcon UAV has spent the last three days providing volunteer aerial services to the Boulder County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the Incident Management Team (IMT). On Thursday afternoon while all National Guard aircraft were grounded due to weather Falcon UAV was proud to have been the only aircraft that was able to take flight to support the flood efforts in Lyons.
Friday saw a reprieve in the weather and we are able to get a perfect flight off in the town of Longmont to capture aerial imagery for damage assesment at the intersection of the overflowing St Vrain river and equally inundated Left Hand Creek. In less than an hour the imagery was processed and provided to the Boulder EOC. Just as Falcon UAV was off to another damage assessment in Lyons, Colorado we were requested to standdown for National Guard helicopters now supporting evacuation efforts.
Thanks to Sean Maday for providing this low bandwith link to the full res imagery!
Composite Image of Intersection of Flooded St Vrain and Left Hand Creek
Early Saturday morning Falcon UAV was heading up to Lyons to complete a damage assessment mapping flight when we received a call from our Boulder EOC point of contact who notified us that FEMA had taken over operations and our request to fly drones was not only denied but more specifically we were told by FEMA that anyone flying drones would be arrested. Not being one to bow to federal bureaucrats we still went up to Lyons to do a site survey for how we can conduct a mission in the near future to provide an adequate damage assessment to this storm raveged community.
Where bridge to the south side of Lyons used to be
Road into Lyons, CO
While we were up there we noticed that Civil Air Patrol and private aircraft were authorized to fly over the small town tucked into the base of Rockies. Unfortunately due to the high terrain around Lyons and large turn radius of manned aircraft they were flying well out of a useful visual range and didn't employ cameras or live video feed to support the recovery effort. Meanwhile we were grounded on the Lyons high school football field with two Falcons that could have mapped the entire town in less than 30 minutes with another few hours to process the data providing a near real time map of the entire town.
Falcon UAV would like to thank the Boulder County EOC and specifically Allen Bishop and Michael Chard (while they were running operations) for their common sense approach to drone operations, working to coordinate the airspace, as well as embracing this technology to help support the recovery effort. In contrast we are very disappointed in FEMAs response to actively prevent the use of UAVs and drone technology when these services were offered for free and at a time when manned helicopters could be used for more critical missions such as evacuations and high mountain search and rescues in inaccessible communities.
To our fellow Colordoans, we understand the recovery efforts are still ongoing and will be followed by a long period of damage assessment. If we can provide volunteer aerial video, photography, or mapping services to any of the affected communities please contact us directly at 303-903-4571.
Recently a few residents from a small town named Deer Trail, Colorado decided to write a proposed city ordinance to purchase "Drone Hunting Licenses" from the town for $25. You can read the specifics of the proposed ordinance below however in a nutshell it would authorize license holders to shoot down drones that resemble a federal drone (i.e. wings, fuselage, propeller) - regardless of the purpose for which it is being used.
Yesterday, 6 August 2013, the ordinance was put to a vote by the town council and it came to a tie which means it will go to a special election for the more than 500 residents of Deer Trail. Falcon UAV was out in Deer Trail yesterday to educate the town council and its residents that their ordinance was misguided, at best, given that the use of drones in the civil market are going to be an enormous help for small communities and small businesses such as those in Deer Trail. For example, Deer Trail is an agriculture and ranching community. Falcon UAV is currently in use in the US for precision agriculture mapping missions allowing farmers to map their crops throughout the growing season. If they spot a problem they can take care of it early and at a local level making their crops more effecient and produce more. Another great example is that the eastern planes of Colorado saw a large storm move through in the last week causing extensive hail damage and high wind damage to a number of farmers crops. Drones such as Falcon UAV could be deployed to accurately map the acreage lost to the storm so that the farmers can receive a fair reimbursement from the insurance companies. As a final example ranchers in the Deer Trail area could be using drones to help with cattle counts during calving season or locating lost cattle with thermal infrared in the winter snow conditions. It is a regular occurence for ranchers to lose a few head of cattle in the winter which costs a rancher thousands of dollars.
The positive uses for unmanned aircraft in the civil market is limitless. There is no question they will create jobs, generate income, and be an enormous benefit to small businesses and small rural towns more than we can imagine. Yes, certain people will use the technology for nefarious purposes but that is no reason to hold the entire technology accountable as the Deer Trail ordinance intends to do if it is voted in.
To put this in perspective for the general public please answer the following questions:
Do you hold the computer or the computer hacker accountable for stealing someone's identity via the internet?
Do you hold the car or the driver accountable for a hit and run?
Then why would you hold the drone accountable for any illegal surveillance rather than the operator?
So to demonstrate the positive uses of unmanned aircraft technology we at Falcon UAV figured that it would be appropriate to use Deer Trail to show how unmanned aircraft may be used to help. Perhaps a small town like Deer Trail would like to get some great HD shots of their iconic water tower! Falcon to the rescue.......
Or maybe they are doing a major expansion to the town from the revenue they are generating from a recent town ordinance. For this major expansion they need to survey the land and to determine the slope of the land to determine water runoff/flood planning as well as determine the area and volume of fill dirt they will need to add or remove for the town projects. To do this they require a high resolution georectified orthophoto and digital elevation model (DEM) which gives accurate GPS positions for every single pixel in the image. Doing this from a manned aircraft using aerial photography or LIDAR is just way too expensive for a town like Deer Trail so perhaps they could use a drone such as Falcon UAV to map the area in a single flight to generate both of these image products!
And in this day and age who doesn't know how to use Google Earth. I mean what if you could overlay the orthophoto and the digital elevation model in Google Earth and provide that information to the whole world so that they can find exactly where Deer Trail Colorado is!
Falcon UAV recently completed operational field tests in South Africa to demonstrate the use of tactical unmanned aircraft in support of anti-poaching, wildlife conservation, and wildlife research. Flights were completed at the Olifants West Game Reserve and the Karongwe Game Reserve and included multiple night flights as well as aerial photography missions of suspected poacher camping/transition locations. Night flights were completed using the Tamarisk 320 and Tamarisk 640 cameras which provided excellent footage of night time wildlife activity which included wild dogs, impala, giraffes, rhinos, and elephants. For these missions the Falcon used the APM autopilot and Mission Planner Software providing a professional non-ITAR tactical UAV solution.
These tests would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of so many people who were working behind the scenes to make this happen and we would like to show our appreciation to a few individuals who made this happen.
The effort was spearheaded by Dr. Tom Snitch (Univ. of Maryland) who spent countless hours over the last year trying to arrange this volunteer effort. Dr. Snitch’s has taken one of his many jobs and applied it to his passion of protecting Africa’s wildlife. His university team uses predictive mathematical modeling to help predict the area areas of a future event based on historical data. For our anti poaching missions, this allows the Falcon to be employed in higher risk areas making it a more effective tool for anti-poaching efforts.
We are grateful to Kirsty Brebner and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) for providing funding for accommodations as well as arranging media events to promote the use of UAVs for conservation missions.
Thank you to Craig Spencer, Warden of Olifants West Game Reserve, for allowing us to fly on his reserve as well as providing generating interest among many of the local reserves for this technology.
Falcon UAV would like to thank Jeff Leake, IR Cameras LLC, and DRS for providing DRS Tamarisk Infrared Cameras which were critical to completing successful night time missions. We would also like to thank the 3D Robotics Development Te 75 am for making the APM and Mission Planning Software what it is today. Special thanks to Doug Weibel for the flight test support and introducing us to APM, Craig Elder for helping us coordinate with the 3DR Dev Team, Michael Oborne for making critical changes to the Mission Planning Software to support all of Falcons functionality. And last but not least we would like to thank Andrew Tridgell. Andrew spent countless hours on developing firmware upgrades and providing technical support in the months leading up to our Africa experience.
Hitting news stands Friday (9 Feb) Falcon UAV is featured in their cover story on unnmanned aircraft. Within the article we are proud to be represented by the Mesa County Sheriff's Office displaying the Falcon in operation. Mesa County Sheriff's Office has one of the only active UAV programs in the US however we look forward to fielding multiple new systems in 2013. If you are part of a public safety organization and interested in understanding what is required to begin life saving air operations in your jurisdiction please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Falcon UAV and DroneMapper recently demonstrated their combined capabilities at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. While only one flight was completed a wide range of data was assembled including aerial photos, a virtual fly through, georectified orthomosaic, digital elevation model, and digital surface model. See the full set of photos, images, and video in our Mapping Samples.
Falcon UAV was featured in the Pangaea Newsletter which is the online content for Professional Surveyor Magazine. This was their first newsletter with a UAS/UAV section so we are proud to be represented in this community!
Falcon UAV has teamed with DroneMapper to provide a complete turn key solution for mapping applications. In addition to providing military grade aerial reconnainance with EO/IR payloads we have developed a new modular payload to carry high resolution daylight and hyperspectral cameras for mapping missions. Our friends at DroneMapper provide the image product services creating high resolution Geo Referenced Mosaics, Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), and Digital Surface Models (DSMs). When combined with existing or new GPS Ground Control Points (Such as those provided by CompassData) near survey grade precision is achieved. Please check out our mapping page and a couple of mapping samples or the DroneMapper website for additional information.
Falcon UAV is proud to be the only Law Enforcment and Public Safety UAV featured in the Jan 2013 edition of the Smithsonian's Air And Space Magazine.
When it comes to unmanned aircraft and public safety the Mesa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) is a true pioneer in the use of unmanned aircraft for public safety. Falcon UAV is honored to be their fixed wing solution and currently the only fixed wing UAV in the publice safety market with a county wide jurisdictional COA. Please take a look at the MCSO Unmanned Systems website as well as their Falcon UAV video!
Falcon UAV completed a series of altitude testing today with a hand launch in no wind conditions at 10,000 ft MSL and a climb to 12,000 ft MSL.
Falcon UAV completed a successful hand launch in no wind conditions at 8000' from Conifer, Colorado. During the flight we had the opportunity to look around the area and catch some great footage.
As part of our regular flight operations we are always looking for great places to fly and prove the Falcon's capabilities. This week we had an excellent opportunity to fly at the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains outside of Denver. We were using the HD gimballed payload and flying at a 1000' (300 meters) altitude from our launch point then about a mile either North and South from launch. Enjoy!
Mesa County Sheriff's Office (Grand Junction, CO, USA) received a complete Falcon system consisting of two Falcons and a ground control station. During the three day training two deputy sheriff's learned to operate the system from launch to recovery without any incidents. Additionally a simulated search and rescue mission was executed along the canyon walls of the Colorado River using the dual EO/IR gimbaled payload to locate lost mountain bikers. During the training the two deputies executed 10 flights for 7.5 hours of total flight time.
Two representatives from the Mesa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) received initial Falcon UAV familiarization and flight training this week. Five flights were completed demonstrating autonomous launch, dual EO/IR camera gimbal, and autonomous GPS landings (belly landings and parachute recovery). The MCSO reps executed the missions and each rep also completed their first successful launches. See the videos of the MCSO launches, a 20 knot autonomous parachute landing, and some video using the dual EO/IR camera gimbal @ /falcon-uav-video/