Drone Testing at Owens Valley

B: Bharat Gehlot, Mrudula Gopalkrishna, Danny Jacobs, Thomas van de Weghe T: ECHO Mk 3

We’re back testing the ECHO drone calibrator. This time at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory Long Wavelength Array. OVRO is about 5 hours north of LA. The location is spectacular with the back side of the Sierras rising steeply to the west. The goal of this testing is to get more experience integrating with an actual array, train new team members, and evaluate improvements to payload mounting.

We’ve learned some interesting things. Our drone, old reliable X8R from 3DR, is extremely noisy at 70MHz. This is the first time we’ve worked in this band, so we’d never have noticed before. After a bunch of on/off testing we’ve narrowed the culprit down to either the computer or the 5V power supply. Its probably the latter. Lab testing will out the villain!

Gopalkrishna and van de Weghe adopting traditional drone poses.

We also learned to change out motors after one propeller stopped being a team player. One issue out here: magnetic sand. Magnetic sand for Pete’s sake! That we can field swap a motor and continue on really raises my confidence that we can build our own drones has increased substantially.

The OVRO support staff have been wonderfully helpful, making us food, lending us tools and generally being very generous with their time.