In the morning we flew two ridge sites that had been the location of our epic crashes last January. Both flights came off without a hitch.
Next, we traveled to the property of a previous grad student of our collaborator, Karen Holl, and flew our 3rd mission. At this point we had completed all the scheduled flights for this trip, save 3 we are doing with Zak tomorrow. Being the over-achievers that we are, we decided to re-fly the sites we did last January. This will make sure that all our flights were collected with the same settings and even provides Jonathan with some data collected under different conditions that he might be able to use in his dissertation. As we were preparing for the 4th flight some low-altitude clouds rolled in and put us in a holding pattern. This gave us an opportunity to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery a bit.
After about half an hour we were able to find a gap in the clouds big enough to fly the mission. The 5th and 6th flights were successful and fairly uneventful. During the 7th flight the copter attracted some nearby buzzards. Many flew in for a closer look causing my heart rate to rise in fear they would attack. They were merely curious and after a few moments wandered off without incident.
The 8th and final site was the most exciting. Up to this point our launch sites have been primarily in remote areas, but the 8th was just off a populated road in a recently excavated field where a new house is being built. In fact, the exact location of our launch had only 6 months ago been a grassy field and now we were standing on a leveled dirt pad about 5 meters below where we stood in January... talk about landscape dynamics!
By the time we were set up, more than half a dozen enthusiastic locals had gathered around. Many of them had witnessed January's flight...and subsequent crash, and so were ready for another show from the crazy gringos. The flight was successful and went as planned. To make up for the lack of excitement a crash brings I gave them a short low ground demo. Jonathan was also able to show them the photos we'd just taken of their neighborhood. They were pretty amazed with it all and appreciated that we took the time to chat with them about our work (with Miguel's help translating). Unfortunately, low clouds came in mid-flight so the images will need to be retaken.
At the end of the day, Jonathan and I completed 8 successful flights in a single day, collecting Ecosynth image data over about 32 hectares of the landscape spread out over 100 square kilometers (10,000 hectares, 38.6 sq-mi.) along bumpy dirt roads and narrow, uneven, and overgrown trails. Today was a good day...