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CSULB Geospatial Research and Mapping (GRAM) Field Program
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Daily Blog for Greg Hosilyk

Day 16

Posted on June 19, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

Data Day!! We started the morning out having a discussion with the professors about what our individual research question would be. We went around the room sharing our research interests and discussing the details regarding our research questions. My interest from the beginning was in regards to the fresh water seeps. The Ka’a’awa Valley gets a lot of rainfall, but there is only a small stream flowing through the middle and that stream dries up before it reaches the ocean, begging the question of where is the water going? The theory is that the water is seeping into the ground through the porous volcanic material and then seeping out of the ocean floor near the beach. These fresh water seeps can cause problems for the coral and people generally want to know where they are. So, my thought was to use the thermal IR camera on a quad or hexicopter to image the shoreline looking for temperature differences since the fresh water should be a different temperature from the salt water. However, about 5 other people had a similar idea, mostly because I think people just want an opportunity to get in the water. So, I’ve decided to pursue my other interest, which is to use one of the different copters to image the valley walls and try to map them and produce a 3D model of them. This is challenging because we don’t have really good methods for doing it yet, like we do for the ground. So, that should be an interesting challenge. So, after the research question portion of our discussion, we decided to stay home today and use the day to get our data organized, YAY!! I love that. So, far, Scott and I have been pretty much in charge of the data organization from the UAV flights. But we need more organization! So, we discussed different ways of achieving that and I left the meeting with a task list:

  • Image collection procedures
  • Personal file management
  • NAS, access point
  • Data crow, Picasa

We had to write up a procedure for people to follow on how to collect UAV imagery, so Scott and I aren’t always doing it. Then I had to explore different ways of handling personal data so that everyone can access each other’s stuff, then I had to spec out a cheap NAS and an access point since we decided those would be nice things to get for the barn. Then I had to evaluate Datacrow and Picasa and pick one for our image management. I found out later that I had a few more tasks, like geotagging the rest of our images and setting a shared folder on one of our laptops. Anyway, I just got done with my research question document and now I’m done blogging and ready for bed.

Day 15

Posted on June 18, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

We started the morning in the field today where we met with the guys from Williams Aerospace and the other hobbyist aviators. The Williams guys sell military grade UAVs and have their own equipment and operation, whereas the hobby guys interact with us much more. Iam is the guy with the X8 plane that flew the only successful flights we’ve had so far and this morning was another success. Iam deferred to me to create the flight plan for the X8 and so I got to use the Mission Planner software to design the flight plan for the morning. After a few iterations, I got a good flight plan created and we launched the X8 into the valley. It had two cameras aboard, both Ricohs, one for true color images and another for the near infrared. It was really awesome being able to work so closely with those guys. I really enjoyed being able to create the whole flight plan for the autopilot to fly and then being able to see it in action. I was ambitious with my plan and I directed the X8 to fly all the way to the back of the valley climbing to 1000 feet by the time it got to the back of the valley. Using the Mission Planner software I created takeoff and landing waypoints along with around 20 waypoints in between at varying altitudes. It was a really great experience learning how to account for the altitude of the valley floor and design a flight plan that kept the plane at a relatively constant elevation able the terrain so that we could get good imagery and also prevent the plane from crashing into the mountains and cliffs that surround the valley. Our first flight was cut short because we ran out of batter power in the plane. We were carrying two cameras and flying the entire length of the valley, so it makes sense. The first flight plan was 10 miles, so our next flight was a bit smaller at around 6.5 miles. I had to leave the field early because I was on dinner duty. We all signed up to cook on different days and my team’s day was today. So, I was pretty disappointed to leave the field without seeing my second flight, but I’m told it was a good flight.

First flight plan

Day 14

Posted on June 17, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

The plan for today was to have the morning available to finish work on our common product presentation and to present them at 1PM. Scott and I finished our presentation relatively early, but I also had to write up a document that showed the procedure we used to geotag the images obtained from the UAVs. Everyone did really well on their presentations. We made an extra effort to have a clean house, with a computer ready with all of our presentations on it. (Guess who did that). Once we finished our work in the morning, we presented our common product to the group. I thought that everyone’s presentation was really good. After the presentations we had dinner and then we discussed research questions and logistics for week ahead of us. We’ll be heading back into the field tomorrow to fly more UAVs and to give the other groups a chance to tie up some loose ends on their common products. I’m looking forward to finally getting some good systematic imagery from a UAV flight, hopefully that can be tomorrow.

Day 13

Posted on June 16, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

The plan today was to work in the morning on our common product presentation and have the afternoon off. Scott and I started working on our product and the work was increasingly frustrating until Dr. Lipo showed up and cleared up which logs went with which UAV flight. We had it wrong and it was really causing a lot of trouble for us. We weren’t present or prepared for each of the flights and therefore didn’t know for sure which data went with which flight. This caused us to work for hours on end with horrible results, frustrating to say the least. Part of the problem was that during the first flight, the memory card on board the UAV was full and stopped recording images, so when Scott and I compared images to flight paths, they didn’t make sense. The longest, most systematic flight should have had the most imagery, but because of the memory card issue, the longest and most systematic flight we had actually had the least amount of imagery. This news allowed us to get the right logs linked up with the right flights, which allowed us to match up the telemetry logs with the photos, allowing us to geotag the photos so that the software that puts the photos together can work properly. With things finally in the right place we were finally able to produce decent mosaic images of the entire flights, which is our final deliverable, among other things. Now we can be proud of the method that we developed to geotag the photos that come from the UAVs, something that as far as I’m aware of, hasn’t been done, at least as far as our REU program goes.

At around 1 we took off towards the north shore of Oahu. It was a much needed break, we all had a great time. We met up in the town of Haleiwa and had lunch and hung out checking out the local shops. Some of the students went kayaking, something that I love to do, but I went snorkeling, something I love more. Once I hit the water with my gear on, I didn’t come out for 2 hours. I spent all that time floating among the reef taking pictures of urchins, fish and an eel. We hung out on the beach in Hale’iwa and watched the sun set. Then we headed back towards Kualoa and grabbed some L&L on the way back.

Once we got back, we had a little celebration for James’s birthday and started crunching some more UAV imagery and preparing our presentation. Now that, we’re just about ready for tomorrow’s presentation, it’s time for bed.

Day 12

Posted on June 15, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

Ah yes

Today we started out watching a short 1o minute movie about the history of Kualoa Ranch where our valley (Ka’a’awa Valley) is located. After that we headed into the field to let groups finish up anything they needed. There was also a guy bringing a laser scanner to the park and everyone was offered the opportunity to see the laser scanner in action. Everyone but me took the offer and headed out. I was alone, with not much to do, so I got out my computer and started working on some math/programming.

When we use UAVs to image the ground, we have to figure out how high to fly and how close our pictures should be together in order to stitch them all together later. There is a formula for figuring it out, but we didn’t have the whole thing in an easy to use calculator. So, if we want 70% overlap on our photos, we have to use a calculation that Dr. Lipo sent me as a python script, we have to take one of the products of that calculation, cut it in half and take 30% of that. So, I modified the python script he gave me so that we can just input the 70% or 80% and it will give us how many meters apart our photos should be. It was my first stab at python and I was able to jump right in. It was really cool, I felt really good that we now have a tool that I can just run on my computer that will tell us what we need to know before we plan out the flight path of our UAVs.

After that, most people started coming back from either finishing in the field or watching the laser scanning, so we grabbed a bite and headed back to the house. We were given some time off and so I hit the beach with some of the others.

The plan is to have Saturday afternoon off, but we have to be almost done with our common products by Sunday afternoon. So Saturday morning is supposed to be work. Most of us were determined to finish working tonight so that we could enjoy Saturday. I think we all knew that it was a lot of work and it was going to spill into Saturday morning no matter what, which is definitely the case for me. I’ve stayed up as late as I can and I’ve been sleeping at my laptop, this blog is my last task of the night while my computer cpu runs at 100% trying to build a 3d model of our valley out of 400 photos taken from a UAV. I wanted to get that process started and have it run while I slept.

Some fish I saw today

In order to get that done, I worked hard to get the data from the flight recorder in the UAV and link it up with photos that were taken from the UAV. Unfortunately, the UAV cameras are good, but they don’t geotag the photos, so we don’t know where they are. But, the autopilot on the UAV knows where they are so, theoretically you could match them up, but nobody has done that before. Until tonight. I got it working, it was hard, but I’m really excited. I got all 400+ photos geotagged using the data from the UAV and I didn’t have to do it by hand to each individual photo, I made the computer do it, so that’s awesome. Anyway, it’s super late now, and I’m going to bed, I’m looking forward to seeing my results in the morning.

Day 11

Posted on June 14, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

Godzilla stepped on me and my day

They said it would happen, a frustrating day of research. We got to the valley around 9 and they started splitting the groups up so that the vegetation group and the archaeology group would get some help. However, by the time the split happened, I asked around and the new groups had formed, and I would just be an extra body which I was told wouldn’t really help unless we had more GPS units. Since we didn’t and our group still had more points to gather, we continued with our original group. We were told that William’s Aerospace was going to show up around 10 and start flying their UAVs. The plan was to fly the multispectral and FLIR (Forward-Looking Infrared) sensors. Because we are in the UAV group, we were told to be back around that time. That doesn’t leave a lot time to gather points, but we tried anyway. While out in the field, we decided that if they show up at 10, they would need an hour to setup and a half-hour to fly, so we wouldn’t really need to back until 11:30 at the earliest. So, we got more points, until both of our cameras ran out of batteries. That was only the first thing to go wrong.

After our batteries died, we hitched a ride back to base camp and found out that Williams still wasn’t even there yet and it was 11:30. Once they did show up, they flew their smallest UAV as a test with no sensor on it. It was fine, but then we went to launch the big one and Jeff Williams was running through the tall grass to launch it and tripped and basically threw it into the ground, crashing it.

We spent the rest of the day waiting for them to setup their third UAV with the FLIR, but that never got off the ground due to multiple problems. While we waited for that, Iam flew his tri-copter from yesterday and it had so much turbulence from the wind that it collapsed and crashed too. Not a good day for flying and so, not a really good day for imagery. Too bad we didn’t just fly the phantoms more.

Day 10

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

Nice place to work

Today we started early again, we got to the valley around 8:30 AM. We headed out to get some points along the beach and I was happy to get walking because I was wearing my new boots. Thank you Amazon for getting me a new pair of hiking boots overnight. We hit our first point where the road from the valley hits Kamehakameha Hwy along the ocean. The problems were, there was a lot of wind blowing in from the ocean, we were taking a point right below some power lines, cliffs on one side and fast traffic, then ocean on the other side. It was a bit precarious to say the least. I was up to fly and I rocked it if I do say so myself :) . Turns out that the flights got more challenging from there, not less. Our next point was a power pole along the highway, so this one was high wind, power lines, traffic, ocean and a suspicious resident. Not ideal conditions for flying a drone. We were already airborne by the time we noticed the suspicious resident, so we continued. On the next point we decided to take the flight from the other side of the road near the ocean and look towards the ocean pretending that we are using the drone over the water so people wouldn’t be suspicious of us. The one after that the resident was outside, so we decided to ask his consent, he was cool and let us do it. With all of these points, there was no good place to take off and land, so we had to have the co-pilot hold the quad and release it for take off and catch it for landing, which added a cool new challenge.

Guess what's under that tree

After the beach points we headed back inland and had to hop a fence to get back on the Kualoa Ranch property. While walking to our next point some cows got interested in us and started following, then they started running so we started running, next thing I knew, we were running from a bunch of cows towards an electric fence, that sounded like a bad situation. Luckily by the time we got to the fence, the cows stopped chasing and we were able to carefully remove one of the electric strands to get through the fence. Now that we were safely on the other side of the electric fence, we took another point and heard a buzzing over head. We knew that was one of the UAVs that they were talking about flying, so we headed back to base camp.

Once there, we got to see the different home brew UAVs that were brought in. They flew the X8 with the near infrared camera and then flew it with both the near infrared and the true color camera at the same time, it was really cool. The home brew UAV works with a GPS driven autopilot, but what’s better is that it allows for the operator to interrupt that and take over manual control. As part of the UAV team it was our responsibility to manage the data that comes off the UAV after it returns. We developed a naming convention for the folders so we can keep track of the data as it comes in. We stuck around to watch the pilot fly his other home brew copter that was a tri-copter made out of tupperware, paint sticks and ping pong balls, pretty awesome.

Still don't know?








It's base camp








Assembling the X8

Home brew tri-copter

Day 9

Posted on June 12, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

Old Water Pump Bore Tunnel

Today we got a much earlier start, we were in the valley by 8:30 AM and we got right to work. Our group headed north towards the beach to get our first point of the day, it was a pond with a little island in the middle and a little shack on the island. After that we continued northwest towards the opening of the valley where we found something really cool! It was this old water pump bore tunnel. The volcanic mountains crack as they cool, cracks then fill in with rock, but that creates natural dikes in the mountain that hold huge amounts of water. Once they discover one, they will bore a tunnel in the side of the mountain they can pump the water out for years. Anyway, we found one and it was totally Indiana Jones creepy.




Me at the tunnel entrance

Creepy tunnel












After our cool discovery we continued collecting control points. We hiked along the north ridge of the valley and got some good exercise, we took a few points up there and found a big meadow heading down into the valley. We decided to walk through the meadow towards base camp where we would have lunch and get a ride to the back of the valley. In the meadow, we found some palm trees and decided that they would make good goereference points, so we decided to get them. This time I got some video of me flying the quadcopter, this was one of my 5 flights for the day:



Here’s what the imagery off the quad copter looks like, this one is from a lower altitude than what we use, but it shows the people and land features better:

Image from quadcopter

After taking two points there we got the end of the meadow and figured out that we were someplace that “LOST” fans would probably recognize:


Then we came upon an opportunity I couldn’t resist:

Jurassic Park

After lunch we got a ride to the back of the valley to take a few more points, then we headed back to the farm house. We thought it was nice to get back early (around 3) but after an hour break, we were back at work with the day’s data.

Day 8 – First Day in the Field

Posted on June 11, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

Opening of the valley, where we began

Today started according to plan, got up around 6, breakfast, coffee then make lunch to go. We got started around 8, preparing our GPS units with the data dictionaries we worked on yesterday. Since I’m in the UAV group, we didn’t have a data dictionary or GPS unit, but we will heavily rely on the points collected by the Topo team, so we planned to go with them and collect their points. To get a point, we have to stay very still at the spot for at least 2 minutes, so we figured while the topo team was doing that we would fly the Phantom quadcopter with the Pentax Optio and colect an aerial view of our point. Using the Optio, the pictures should be geotagged. This would give us some good experience with the quadcopter and provide a good reference photo for the topo team’s points. That was the plan and we mostly followed it.

Only about a half hour into our trek, my shoe finally gave out and the sole had completely come off, except for the toe where I duct taped it earlier. On our lunch break I peeled the sole off and walked the rest of the day without it, that sucked!

My poor shoe

Magnum PI copter and Roxy car

On our sixth point, we were next to the left over set from “Meet Joe Young” taking our GPS reading and flying the quadcopter when an exact replica of the Magnum PI helicopter made a very close flyby. It was so close that it blew our quadcopter off course and out of orientation. I took the controls and got it back and landed safely. Just then it started raining on us, so we packed it up and took shelter under the left over movie set. We watched the helicopter make a series of very close flybys while a little car all decorated with Roxy logos and surfboards on the roof, drove almost to us, stop, turn around and do it again. After watching this a few times we figured out that they were filming a Roxy commercial, so we watched while it rained. Just as the rain subsided we started walking away to our next point deeper in the valley. Just as we were walking away, we got news over our radio that a blue car had broken into the park and if we saw it, we should get its license plate and report it. Cole immediately chased the car which sped off in the opposite direction and the helicopter immediately took off opposite of the car towards the back of the valley. We watched the helicopter go all the way to the back of the valley and land out of our view.

Magnum PI Copter

So, we started heading that way, Cole wanted to get the license of the helicopter since he was unable to get the license of the car as it was a show car and had no plates. When we got to our 7th point (the set from Stargate Atlantis) Cole kept walking determined to get the license of the helicopter. The rest of us climbed a hill nearby where we could see the helicopter parked with people hanging around it. I figured if Cole was going to confront these guys we should have it on camera, so we quickly grabbed the quadcopter and I flew it over near the helicopter, but it was really far and I couldn’t tell if I was over it or not, but it was worth a try. After hearing that Cole was coming back, I flew the quad back and started collecting our 7th point. By this time, we were behind and we really needed to get back to the group to head out. So, we quickly grabbed the point and started heading back. Cole told us that he basically interrogated the pilot and wrote down their license and left.

Set from Stargate Atlantis

Once we got close enough to see Dr. Lipo’s car, he headed over to pick us up and we left the park for the day. Only then did we find out that the radio call was a false alarm and that the Roxy commercial was legit. It was apparently a last minute thing and not everyone in the park knew about it.

After that we headed to the grocery store from some supplies then to the house for dinner and data processing.

So, a fun and eventful first day of field work, hopefully we didn’t make the film guys mad and they won’t complain to the park owners because we really like it here :)

One shoe down, but still smiling

Day 7

Posted on June 10, 2013 by Greg Hosilyk

This morning started with black coffee as there was a lack of condiments, but hey, at least it was kona coffee. With all the Long Beach prep and the day of travel out of the way, it was basically the first day of the field portion of our program. So, we started a little later, had breakfast and got a lecture by Dr. Terry Hunt. He was the one that worked with Dr. Carl Lipo on the Nat Geo special about Moai on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). It was cool getting to talk to Dr. Hunt and Dr. Lipo in such a small group, kinda like the academic version of seeing that band at a that small venue. Anyway, after that we quickly packed up a lunch and headed to our research area at Kuoloa Ranch. We got onto a really old school bus with no windows and started driving a dirt road into Ka’a’awa Valley. Then the driver stops and starts telling us about some history. He starts by explaining that his great, great, great grandfather first came to Hawaii in the 1800s with missionaries and became close to the King Kamehameha III, serving various roles such as minister of the interior. At that moment, I realized, WE’RE GETTING A TOUR BY THE OWNER! This is awesome, this guy’s family owns this huge chunk of Oahu and has for a really long time. He drove us through the majestic and amazingly picturesque valley where numerous films have been shot and instead of giving us the normal tour he pointed out features of the landscape that would be of interest to us. We got to stop and get out and look at archaeological sites up close and explore the valley floor. Please enjoy the gallery below:

While we were on the valley floor we found this cool plant, watch what it does:

After our excursion to the valley, we made our way back to the barn and started working on our data dictionaries. But, I’m in the UAV group which means my job for the common product is to produce a system for organizing the imagery data retrieved from the different UAV flights. Wait, my job is to organize images? Haha, ok, no problem, happens to one of my hobbies. So, I’m going to use Picasa to like I do at home so that I have the ability to tag photos so that we can look them up by a variety of keywords. I’m looking forward to putting Picasa to work in a setting aside from family pictures.

About Greg Hosilyk

From CSULB, Geography Major specializing in GIS. Technology specialist.