Trail Flights resume tomorrow - RC Groups
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Sep 14, 2012, 01:22 PM
Lift is cheap - Drag sucks
Tom Harper's Avatar

Trail Flights resume tomorrow

The FAA says we can use our UASs for trail research as long as it is a private, recreational enterprise - no useful result. So, whatever.

Anyway, the bad weather is subsiding and we should be back on the trail tomorrow. The segment we are after is one that caught our attention years ago but was never investigated. I've shown it here a couple of times. Wagons were used from 1600 - 1700 and again from 1800 - 1880. The big wagons of the 19th century left large erosion scars so we should get a good profile from the air.

We'll be using old reliable Sig Seniorita with an IR Atto v1.8.

There's some updates:

Landing gear removed
Added skids and a 12:8.5 folding prop
Removed Canon A650 (11 ounces)
Added Canon S95 with CHDK USB port shutter trigger

Everything is top or side accessable. The fuselage has a lot of sheet reinforcement and it's covered with heavy duty silkspan using nitrate dope.

There's a level setter circuit for the USB input. I couldn' get a right angle on the USB connector so I cut a little hole in the side of the fuse and let it stick out. Hey, whatever works!

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Sep 17, 2012, 03:01 PM
Worn-out the seat of my pants
Lomcevac's Avatar
Looking forward to the pics Tom
Sep 18, 2012, 04:43 PM
Lift is cheap - Drag sucks
Tom Harper's Avatar

Great day for photos

The photographs are generally good, but some are blurred by oscillations in roll.

This was an initial survey flight over a large sand hill that was crossed by mules, pedestrians, live stock and wagons from 1598 - 1850. There are four primary signatures for these trails:

Wagons leave a deep swale where the animals compact the earth in the center

In some soils the compacted earth forces water to run off and make deep ditches on either side of the swale (which then becomes a mound)

Mule trails are narrow, highly compacted trails that are clear of vegetation

In some soils the Mesquite seeds that are excreted by the mules sprout and leave a living trail that lasts for hundreds of years

The first photo covers about a quarter mile of mule trail (100M altitude). On the far right you can see the narrow, compacted path. On the left, the downhill slope is deeply eroded.

The second photo is of another mule trail that has eroded. There are 3 on this hill.

The third photo shows a number of swales (lower right) that go up the sand hill. Some of these have been altered by ATV and pickup truck hill climbs, but the lower ones have smooth surfaces that have not been disturbed.

We will fly again Friday to get more detail on the destination of the mule trails.

Sep 18, 2012, 04:46 PM
Lift is cheap - Drag sucks
Tom Harper's Avatar
Sorry duplicate
Sep 21, 2012, 10:28 PM
Lift is cheap - Drag sucks
Tom Harper's Avatar

Ground photos and another flight

The first photo shows the sand bank with the wagon tracks going up the face. This is very unusual. It's rare to find a single track let alone a dozen or more. The tracks marked by the green arrows are undisturbed, so considered class 1.The two marked with red arrows are class 2 because of recent ATV use.

The green arrow across the top indicates a swale that runs along the top of the ridge.

The second photo shows a detail of a class 1 swale. It is possible that these swales date from the 1600s - now we have to search for artifacts to prove it.

In the third photo, Powell is easing the Seniorita into a tight landing spot.

Oct 07, 2012, 06:57 PM
Registered User

OA, Harp!

Been enjoying your work for a while now, keep up the good work!
Oct 11, 2012, 12:27 PM
Lift is cheap - Drag sucks
Tom Harper's Avatar


Thanks for the response Lancer - great to know you are watching. Let's not lose contact.

Anna and I are working on improving photo quality and being able to follow the trails after they disappear into the sand. The photo below is from 350 ft altitude. The horizontal alignments are trails. Only two of them have been damaged by ATVs. The vertical alignments were caused by cattle drives. Probably in the 1800s.

Repeated trail use causes deep soil compaction - so, I got this thing on eBay that measures compaction. You push the probe into the ground and read a meter (photo 2). Kind of crude but it works. The third image is a profile of the compaction readings across one of the swales shown in the photo. Outside of the swale you are in loose sand with readings of 25 to 50 psi. The edges of the swale were compacted by the loaded wagon wheels and the center is compacted, but less, by the animals that pulled the wagon.

Now we need to measure some ATV and truck tracks for comparison.

It keeps us old folks out of the bars.

Oct 17, 2012, 02:54 AM
Worn-out the seat of my pants
Lomcevac's Avatar
Amazing that the compaction data is so clear. Really interesting.
Oct 18, 2012, 04:14 PM
Lift is cheap - Drag sucks
Tom Harper's Avatar
It looks like we may be able to get signatures for different kinds of vehicles. Then we could demonstrate that a particular trail is an artifact and not an abandoned ranch road.

Gotta get more data!!

Jun 01, 2017, 10:52 AM
Registered User
This is some really intriguing stuff, are you still involved in this research Tom?

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