Sunday, May 11, 2008

On the Cap

We spent most of yesterday resting up and preparing to head out further up the glacier than we've been before. After a bunch of test runs yesterday, Jim was suitably convinced that yeti was up and working well enough to take it out further to run a course through some of the rougher sastrugi on the traverse route. We drove out to the third waypoint, towing Yeti on a sled behind the snowmobile and running the Tucker Sno-cat along side.

When we got to our test location, we got Yeti ready to go and pressed play. Pretty soon, it tacked north and veered about thirty degrees off of it's intended course. I groaned as Jim seemed thoroughly unimpressed before we manually drove it back on track and pressed play again. Within thirty seconds, it turned north again off of our track, and I started to bite my nails. We knew our controller worked from all of the other successful tests, so I guessed that our controllers might have drifted from being bumped around for on 10 miles on the drive out. We did a quick field re-calibration and held our breath. It worked perfectly, and Yeti drove off towards the first waypoint.

This exceedingly boring video gives a quick sense of speed and scale and records the first autonomous GPR record in history. That's a lot of qualifiers but we're excited.

The snow was soft and the sastrugi was relatively large, but Yeti handled it all. It did get stuck several times when it hit large but soft features at just the wrong angle, but that problem was the result of our small tires, and won't be an issue once we replace them.

The radar that we got back looked pretty good to us, though we're waiting to see what the experts say. It looks like the radio on Yeti has some interference with the radar, but that won't impede its detection of crevasses and can be turned off once we're done with testing and out of the prototype portion of the project.

Kevin and I are actually excited to be heading out at this point. The rest of the team has been great but we've been holed up for some absurdly long nights in the nerdery, and ready to see the sun go down again. We'll head up to the icecap summit on Tuesday on a hercules C-130 cargo plane, and figure out the plan from there. I haven't had time to cut all of our video yet, but I'll work on that and hopefully have it up by the beginning of next week.

Right before heading up the ice, yeti in tow

Kevin on his own

This was all Jim's idea, from a paper concept in 2004. He's glad to see it running at last.

Our workspace may not seem so bad from the pictures, but we're working 100 yards from a runway in a building in which they operate heavy machinery with diesel exhaust, which also houses a firing range, and next to our little aluminum pallet that we work on is a shelf of stacked HAZMAT barrels. We're lucky we're not out in the cold though, and after this, nothing can distract us.

Kevin seems to have a ridiculous fondness for his new ski goggles (seriously)


At May 12, 2008 at 11:16 AM , Blogger George Murphy said...

Awesome job, thanks for the pics and vids, great stuff!


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