Chefornak and Bethel take to the skies

The village of Chefornak as seen during the flight in

The village of Chefornak as seen during the flight in

UAV expert Corey Upton and STEM curriculum specialist Adam Low visited Chefornak and Bethel during the second week of February to assist in the flight planning and initial data collection process for individual community projects. Bethel is located about 400 miles west of Anchorage and the village of Chefornak is another 90 miles to the west.     Jared Mixon, the UB teacher incorporated our visit into the entire day of learning for all his students.  We met his engineering class in the morning and worked with them to make sure the hexacopter was working properly and plan missions using the mission planner software.  

Teacher Jared Mixon works with a student 

Teacher Jared Mixon works with a student 

We flew 5 missions with the students, and went through the entire flight process and by the end, students were performing all aspects of the mission themselves.   

Students in Chefornak watching the mission progress of the Hexacopter

Students in Chefornak watching the mission progress of the Hexacopter

The students in the Chefornak Upward Bound Program are working with a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dr. Katey Walters Anthony, to use the UAV to collect data on the locations of methane gas pockets trapped in lake ice.  The region around Chefornak shows an anomalous amount of methane on a recent large scale surveys.  Students intend to fly over lakes and map the locations of the large round surface bubbles that are trapped.  If the conditions are safe, the students are ready to take samples of the gas and send it to the University of Alaska Fairbanks for analysis.  

 

 

In Bethel we worked with students in the Upward Bound program with teacher Megan Shaw.  Students here were working on making a map that sheds light on the problem of people who travel on river ice falling into open spots with rotten ice.

Truck driving on the frozen Kuskokwim River with Hexacopter in foreground

Truck driving on the frozen Kuskokwim River with Hexacopter in foreground

They are using the hexacopter to take pictures of the river ice and make a google earth image overlay that can be shared with the community.  This map will be helpful if it can be shared as a layer that displays on an app community can access on their phones. 

We went through the entire process and watched as the students ran the various aspects.  We also set up the students with simulator software that gave the kids the ability to practice being a backup pilot. 

Students in Bethel holding the hexacopter

Students in Bethel holding the hexacopter

There was an especially exciting moment when the students identified something square that was trapped in the river ice.  We also left these folks with a drone that has the capability to do FPV photography.  The students practiced this and flew to an elevation of a certain height and were able to see the town of bethel in a different light.  Overall the students achieved the goal of having a sense of efficacy and began talking about other ways that they could use this tools on projects in their community.

Students view the Ipad for a first person view of a what a Phantom quadcopter above their school is seeing. 

Students view the Ipad for a first person view of a what a Phantom quadcopter above their school is seeing. 

The view from above the High School in Bethel

The view from above the High School in Bethel