Week 4 of the UAV training had its ups and downs, which means that things went very well considering the nature of a project that involves take-offs and landings. Willy and Aaron spent the week preparing for the big visit to Tzapino on Friday and Saturday. They tested and re-tested the two UAVs (Abednego and Moisés) that they would take out to the Jungle.
On rainy days, they fine-tuned the routes on the mission planning software, checking and re-checking waypoints and drop-points. Willy continued his build of the third UAV which he will have put together entirely on his own.
On Friday, after a morning of rains and fog, the skies cleared, and the team was ready to head down to the Waodani village of Tzapino. They carefully packed the UAVs in their hard-sided cases and loaded themselves and their gear into the airplane. Galo Ortiz flew them and a few other team members out to the rainforest.
They started immediately, pulling out Abednego first, the craft that came to Ecuador already functioning and experienced. They carefully checked the flight plans, then put the craft into the air. On its very first flight, a simple error caused Abednego to climb at the wrong point on the airstrip and Abednego met the plant-life of the Amazon rainforest. He was wounded, but not mortally so; however he could no longer fly for the weekend of tests.
That means that little brother UAV, Moisés, had the opportunity to prove his own mettle, and prove it he did. The now very nervous men instructed the UAV to complete a circular flight around Tzapino and it did so and landed with no problems. Their shaken confidence partially restored, Willy and Aaron made one more flight, to Nemompade, while the daylight began to fade and Galo watched from the skies in his own airplane.
The next day, the men prepared and flew two more missions, both successful, and packed Moisés away with great relief just in time to make it home before a large storm from the north would have grounded their ride home.
With the main tests complete, Willy and Aaron will now finish the last three days of training, reviewing the experiences of the weekend, finishing the build of the third UAV, and working to repair Abednego, whose injuries were caused by a simple miscalculation in the location of the first way-point in relation to the launch site.
With the training almost over, everyone involved prepares to take a deep breath and evaluate where the program is and where it will be in the future. There is great enthusiasm for the possibilities that UAVs offer, and many plans and dreams that will slowly become realities through the months and years that follow.