In two days, we set off for far Northern Alaska — it’s a trip that I’ve experienced a few times now, but there is still a substantial amount of excitement that comes along with preparing for field work.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve finalized our team (more on this in a second), booked our travel, completed some flight training and practice as a group, and packaged up our equipment and shipped it off to meet us in Deadhorse.  This last part can be somewhat nerve-wracking — unfortunately no single shipping company can get equipment all of the way from Boulder to Deadhorse and so the options are to either:

1) Drive down to Denver International Airport and  let Alaska Airlines Cargo take the equipment for you

2) Deliver the items to be shipped to your local FedEx office and have them take it to Anchorage, at which point they complete a handoff to Northern Air Cargo who takes it the rest of the way up

The FedEx/NAC route tends to be substantially less expensive and so we went with that route.  Unfortunately, the tracking of your shipment stops at Anchorage, so it’s never quite clear when your package is delivered to Deadhorse!  Fortunately, Sandia National Labs has a good relationship with NAC and they keep an ear out for our packages — at this point, I know both have at least made it to Anchorage, and hopefully they will be waiting for us when we arrive in Deadhorse on Sunday!

As promised, here is some more information on our team for this deployment — I (Gijs) will be joined by Dale Lawrence (CU professor of Aerospace Engineering) and two student pilots (Will Finamore and Nathan Curry).  I’ve worked with Dale for some time, but this will be our first field deployment together.  Will and Nathan are great pilots and we are looking forward to their contributions towards a successful campaign!  This morning we met in Boulder for one last series of practice/test flights.  Operation of the DataHawk 2 aircraft that we are bringing is not terribly difficult, but it can never hurt to have some extra practice.

Below is a photo of one of the aircraft on its shipping crate before being shipped to Alaska.  In total, we’re bringing seven DataHawks with us — hopefully we’ll be able to bring them all home, but when you’re going to a remote location its a good idea to bring more than you think you’ll need!  Amazingly, the crate shown can fit five aircraft along with the necessary ground station equipment for deploying them.

The Datahawk 2 UAS, and the shipping case used for transport of 5 aircraft and ground station equipment.

The Datahawk 2 UAS, and the shipping case used for transport of 5 aircraft and ground station equipment.

Ok — that’s all for now.  We still have a lot of loose ends to wrap up before we depart on Saturday.  More about our mission and destination in posts to come — please check back for updates about our research!

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