Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG-SEP 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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63 unmanned systems inside August/September 2017 ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. that comes up from exposed dry surfaces near the Salton Sea. Roorda, as it happens, is familiar with the area from high above. As a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter pilot, he accumulated more than 2,000 f light hours in some pretty hot places. And, he said, "I f lew F-18s and A-4 Skyhawks in the Imperial Valley in the late 1980s. "One of the problems that we had in operating there was visibility. The wind would come up and we would have to shoot instrument, meteorologi- cal-condition approaches because the air was full of dust. Then you would land and get out of the airplane and you would breathe that dust and your lungs would tell you 'this is not good'." What happens, he explained, is there are 40 miles of open desert, with prevailing winds coming from the west that blow dust into the heavily cultivated valley. "And it just destroys the quality of life there. It's really horrible when that dust kicks up. "You have sand grains that f ly across the val- ley, ping on the surface of what they call the 'playa', rupture the surface and the wind lifts the dust into the air." Playa is, according to Webster, the f lat- f loored bottom of a desert basin that at times becomes a shallow lake. The surface of the dry Salton Basin playa is not exactly like the surface of a standard sandy desert. And that's the crux; the dust that comes up when its surface is broken contains '10PM' particulate matter, that is tiny particles of 10 micrometers in diameter. Airborne particles of this size and smaller, when breathed, can settle in the bronchi and lungs. "People are ingesting and breathing that stuff and all kinds of health and respiratory problems can occur as a result," Roorda said. Dust from the Salton Basin is now an urgent problem. Among a variety of methods for dust control being tested there by environmental engineers is the tilling of the soil on the f loor of the Basin. The furrows and ridges that are produced disrupt air f low along the playa, es- sentially slowing down the wind at the surface. "With the rows of tillage, it's that serrated surface that creates a windbreak and keeps the wind from lifting the dust," Roorda said. "And that's what we are monitoring." Essential char- acteristics to be measured include the depth of the furrow bottoms and the height of the ridge tops, both of which are constantly being de- graded by natural forces. On the Ground "Anything in the field is dirty and chaotic," Roorda said, with a boyish grin. And the environment around the Salton Sea is among the harshest. Salton Basin soil is corrosive and the water is highly saline. The temperature on the floor of the Basin is very hot, while the mud, in some places, can be knee-deep and very, shall we say, 'mucky'. In short, much fun is to be had there. Juniper Unmanned f irst came to the Salton Sea in 2016, at the behest of Formation Environmental, an environmental engineering firm working for a public agency in the Imperial Valley. Juniper were initially contracted to col- lect data using an unmanned Pulse Aerospace Vapor 35 helicopter with a YellowScan Mapper LiDAR scanner. Accompanying Roorda was YellowScan's Pierre Chaponnière. Then, a few months later, Roorda and his team returned Tim Roorda (left), director of operations for Juniper Unmanned, leads a panel of experts. "COMPARED AGAINST ACTUAL MEASUREMENTS from the RTK survey, the LiDAR survey we did at 15 meters of altitude delivered results that were extremely close to reality." Tim Roorda, Juniper Unmanned

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