We woke  up to a windy morning — somewhat surprising, given the weather forecast — but winds were at a low enough level that we made the decision to prepare to fly.  Before we could get out the door, however, Al let us know that the rig that had been stuck had made it to a pull off and that the road would be open for at least a few hours.  So, he and I took the one truck we had on site, dropped Dale, Nathan and Will off at the AMF3, and then set out on the 15 mile drive to Kuparuk Camp to retrieve our rental truck.  After doing so and returning to Oliktok, I caught up with the rest of the group and we prepared for test flights.

Dale, Nathan and Will prepare to launch the DataHawk 2 from the runway.

Dale, Nathan and Will prepare to launch the DataHawk 2 from the runway.

In planning for the deployment, we’d decided that it would likely make sense to operate out of the pickup truck near the southwest end of the USAF runway.  Approximately five minutes after having set up our ground station out there, we noticed a large creature moving around the tundra.  Sure enough, it was a brown (grizzly) bear, apparently foraging for food by digging holes in the tundra and rooting around in there with his nose.  We determined that the bear was far enough away for us to continue doing what we were doing so long as one of us kept a close eye on the bear’s position.

A photo (from a safe distance!) of the grizzly bear we called "Cinnabun" (due to its cinnamon color) who combed the tundra for snacks for much of the afternoon.

A photo (from a safe distance!) of the grizzly bear we called “Cinnabun” (due to its cinnamon color) who combed the tundra for snacks for much of the afternoon.

With the winds subsiding a bit, I wish that I could say that we had a terrific day filled with flights — unfortunately, that is not the case.  Although the bear did come close enough for us to head inside for a little while, it was ultimately our equipment that most directly impacted our operations.  Before departing for Oliktok, our team, and others, tested the equipment and code to make sure that everything was working as it should.  But given the struggles we had trying to fly today, it would not have been evident.  Beginning right before lunch, we executed a series of test flights with very mixed results.  We still have all of our equipment, but currently the aircraft are not flying as intended, which makes them difficult to control to the degree that we would like.  I can’t tell you how frustrating that is given that the weather was very reasonable for flying this afternoon.  With one hour left before dinner, Dale, Will and Nathan are working hard to both diagnose what was going on within aircraft’s computer that could result in the struggles we faced and to repair the minor aircraft damage that occurred as a result of rough landings.  I’m really hoping that by tomorrow, which is also forecast to be very reasonable from a weather perspective, things will be ready to go and we can get out to collect the scientific data that we’re here to gather.  Time will tell…

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