Free Willy the remake

The radar system that we have this year is similar to last years but is a new model. The first task was to determine the optimal speed and height to fly Willy, theoretically flying slower and lower will provide the best data but it is more difficult and covers a lot less ground. What we really wanted to test was how high and fast we can fly and still collect good data, f we fly too slowly Willy also has a tendency to rotate. We also need to know how long it takes to fill the data disk so that we don’t continue flying once this is full. Our objective for the testing was the Vanderford Glacier, around a 15-20 minute flight from Casey. We set things up in the same way as last year, putting everything in the box and setting it running at the station. The Vanderford is a spectacular looking glacier and I was more than a little excited to be able to go along and oversee the tests.

Testing new equipment is always challenging and this was no exception, when we retuned and looked at the data we found that we didn’t have any GPS information and that the radar had stopped recording part way through our flight.

One difference with our new system is that there is a WiFi connection between the controller and the antenna, we had not planned to use this as both the controller and the antenna were inside the box under the helicopter. However, we decided that for carrying out these longer surveys it would be far better to see if we could have the controller in the helicopter. It would allow me to monitor the data, make sure everything was working correctly and change settings to collected the best possible data but also to stop and start data collection, only collecting what we needed and saving disk space and battery power. This setup was always the ultimate goal however, we didn’t think it would be possible to maintain the wireless connection while we were still slinging the radar beneath the helicopter. Enter Wayde the helicopter engineer and Jason the comms technical officer to solve all your helicopter radar wifi issues! Together they constructed a small antenna that I could use to boost the wifi signal, allowing connection between the antenna beneath the helicopter and the controller with me in the helicopter. The amazing development meant that not only were we collecting data far more efficiently but we also minimised time flying while not collecting useable data!

Lots of crevasses visible at the surface of the Vanderford Glacier.
Zooming in you can even see layers of snow in the crevasses at the surface.
Windblown snow makes cloudlike patterns on the surface.
Flying home close to the end of the glacier where it crumbles into the ocean.


Live data on the screen of the radar controller in the helicopter!
Of course Chris is happy that I am now in the helicopter for all of the surveys with my seemly endless supply of jelly sweets!

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