Monday, December 22, 2014

PBC 2015 #1

Inspired by ChrisL at, I decided to submit videos to the 2015 PolarBear Challenge. Thus is my first submission. A time lapse video with no music of the short ride to work with a short loop around campus thrown in at the end. Temperature was -13°F and total distance was only 11 km. I was originally going to add a much longer loop (as you get additional points for distance) buI had to switch to reserve just before I stopped by the university temperature sign. I didn't have a handy outdoor thermometer at the beginning of the ride, I may have to pick something up. According to the rules, the temperature and mileage at the start, and I assume the finish, needs to be spoken and shown at the beginning and end of the video. I forgot to do that. Oh well, plenty of other opportunities.

I tried to use the GoPro to log the mileage at the beginning and end of the ride but that turned out to be a mistake. Not having an LCD or viewfinder to frame the image or see if it's in focus was a problem. I'll try cell phone video next time for the beginning and end. Also, the camera started to slip in it's mount during the short gravel road portion of the loop.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Flight Delay

Friday was a travel day. I walked to the Civic Center BART station at 10 in the morning. Then BART to the San Francisco Airport and find out that my flight was delayed, then delayed again, then again. We finally left for Seattle at 6:15pm. Of course this meant that I missed my connection to Fairbanks. The delay was not related to weather but the airline not having a pilot available. While in line for rebooking, I called the airline and rescheduled so all I needed to ask about was my checked bag.

Once in Seattle, everyone on the flight received a little gift with some gourmet food items and a 2200 mAh USB cell phone charger as they got off of the flight. Pretty cool gift. Especially since I put all of my chargers in my checked bag. The battery in my iPhone is 1570mAh so this is more than a full charge. I stopped at customer service before heading to baggage claim to make sure that my return flight reservation was in place. It was and they gave me a hotel voucher since the delay was caused by the airline. Pretty phenomenal customer service. Kudos to Alaska Airlines!

The hotel was the Hilton Doubletree. Far better than what I would have picked on my own off of My mom is flying up to Fairbanks tomorrow so I rescheduled to be on the same flight from Seattle to Fairbanks. Note that it's a corner room! Dinner in the lounge was delicious. More so since I hadn't had any food yesterday besides the complimentary pretzel snack on the plane. I thought that the San Francisco airport would have a decent selection of restaurants but was wrong. Besides a smattering of fast food, there was only pizza.

I was thinking about taking the light rail into Seattle but it has been raining pretty steadily all night and doesn't look too much better today. My flight out of Seattle isn't until 11pm so I have some free time today. This is a look from the balcony of the hotel room.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

More From AGU

I stopped by the Latitude booth to take a closer look at their UAV. It has a payload of 5kg and can cruise for 12 hours. The battery life for vertical operation, i.e. take off and landing is about 5 minutes. This could be extended but at the expense of payload or fuel for the gasoline engine. In case you can't tell, I am fascinated by their design.

The design is for autonomous operation though you are required to maintain a radio link in case it need to be deliberately brought down, i.e. another aircraft enters the flight area. This is larger than the typical UAV so it should help it being seen. The company also has an unmanned Cessna 172. As you might imagine, the instrument payload is pretty impressive once you eliminate the people. But it is not designed for VTOL so you would have to have a convenient runway. The mentioned that they are planning to be in Barrow in the summer of 2016.

The gasoline engine should look familiar to anyone who played with model airplanes. It is essentially a horizontal twin, two cycle, compression ignition engine (i.e. diesel) with glow plugs for starting only. Those are the things looking like spark plugs in the heads.

I also stopped at the Spectral Evolution booth just to sort reminisce a bit. They manufacture and market a visible-near infrared portable spectrometer modeled after an instrument I had worked on some 40 years ago. It has lost 90% of it's weight and volume, higher resolution and, I suspect, is much more reliable. They even had some pictures of the original unit.

There were a number of presentations on modeling the future of multi-year sea ice in the Arctic and the projection hasn't changed much. Somewhere between 2030 and 2050 was the estimate of when the sea ice coverage drops below 1 mil sq miles. That's the threshold that some have come up with for complete thawing of the North Pole. Another interesting tidbit of information is that the Greenland ice sheet holds enough water to raise the sea level by 7m. What is also significant is that recent times have the entire ice sheet melting at the same time.

This is the Umiaq booth, the science logistics provider in Barrow, with one of their staff members doing a demonstration of an Inupiat yo-yo. There are normally five people in their booth but they are standing back for the demonstation. Sorry about the vertical form factor on the video. In addition to the Umiaq booth the other Alaska booths are UAF research and Toolik Field Station. The Toolik booth had extra comfy seats for resting and I know this is a stretch, but the Toolik manager rides an R65 airhead. How's that for getting some minimal moto content into this post.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

San Francisco (part 3)

This evening, I had dinner with some colleagues at an Italian restaurant on the other side of Chinatown. They had a delicious mushroom risotto. Like I've said before, I don't think there is bad food anywhere in San Francisco. It did make for a long walk back to the motel but did get me to Union Square and Powell Street. This is the area where I have stayed in the past and it is very busy and touristy with lots of expensive stores selling things that no one really needs. I did end up stopping at the Apple store as my iPhone had zoomed the screen and I didn't know how to turn it off. In case it happens again, the solution is triple tap with 3 fingers to bring up a zoom menu assuming that the zoom feature is turned on within accessibility.

With all of the walking around today at Moscone West, going to the Whole Foods store for breakfast and lunch, and through Chinatown for dinner, it added up to a lot of steps. I hadn't walked this far in a while. This screen is from the pedometer app on the iPhone. That's almost enough walking to offset dinner. I had gone by the Piston & Chain storefront but there was some sort of private party going on by the time I had gotten there so I didn't stop.

There were several UAV vendors showing off their wares as well as quite a few presentations and posters where they have been used to collect data. I gather that there are some real challenges to using UAVs to collect data but in many cases the lower cost still make it pretty attractive option. I found this model interesting as it has 4 electric motors for vertical lift and a twin cylinder gas engine for flying. The gas engine gives it a lot of time in the air and a large payload but still retains the important benefit of vertical take off and landing. Pretty slick.