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This week the UAVs finally felt Ecuadorian wind beneath their wings. The team here at I-TEC Ecuador was happy to reach the stage where they could watch their UAVs take flight. They haven’t yet soared over the jungle, but that day is coming.

Willy and Aaron sent the UAVs up from a nearby field and watched them soar in pre-programmed flight plans over the trees and back again. Not every flight was perfect, as the team worked on techniques and procedures, however, the aircraft proved they could do what they’re supposed to do, and survived the occasional, inevitable human error.

This week also saw Willy, who will be leading the UAV project at I-TEC Ecuador, begin building the third and final UAV.  This build will be entirely his from beginning to end.  Willy has shown great enthusiasm and natural aptitude for flying and understanding the mechanics of the UAV, and he has already programmed and flown several flights.

The I-Film representative at I-TEC Ecuador, Henry, was able to join the men this week in capturing pictures and film of the first flights, and he will continue to be an active part of the team. Because of Henry’s participation, there will be more digital content soon about this training intensive and especially about the future of the UAVs in the jungles themselves.

While Willy worked on the third UAV build, and Henry prepared and filmed interviews of the team, Aaron went head-to-head with the auto-pilots. As computers often do, two of them decided they knew better than their human users. The battle raged on between man and machine throughout the weekend, as Aaron worked to find and correct some unexplained behavior, the malfunction. He finally did so and will test the fixtheory on Monday. This issue, while frustrating, would not prevent the flights next week, but it would mean that the men on the ground would have to land the UAVs manually instead of allowing the autopilot to land itself.

There are challenges and joys to come, as the team enters their final two weeks of training and flying, and especially as they prepare for the actual missions out into the rainforest. All are eager to see what the next week holds; it will be the last full week of training and testing here in Ecuador.