Operation Last-Mile: Critical Drone Delivery Testing Report

Pre-Programmed Flights ● Aeropoint Ground Control Points (GCP’s): ​ Test 3A was the first test that called for all 3 drones to be operating at the same time. We established latitude and longitude coordinates for all 19 targets by placing Aeropoint Ground Control Points (GCP’s) on all the targets on April 6. We supplied the GCP data for all the targets to Workhorse to use in their autonomous flight planning software. We also plugged the coordinates into Dronelink autonomous flight planning software for Test 3A. ● Dronelink Software: ​ For Test 3A, we used Dronelink flight controller software to pre-program each team’s 5 flights for a total of 15 flights. As mentioned in the test description, each team had an operating altitude of 175, 200, and 225 feet respectively. The flights to the target and back to base were pre-programmed. The pilots were to descend over the target and drop the payload manually and land the drone back at the base manually. Lessons learned from the use of Dronelink: ○ Only one of the 8 pilots had used Dronelink before so a brief orientation was held. More time might have been allocated for this training. ○ The Airboss for this Test was familiar with Dronelink and had programmed all the flights. However, he had set the target altitude to “AGL” (above ground level). The way the software works, the drone takes off and ascends to an altitude that allows a level flight to the desired target altitude. In this case, the target AGL was programmed at 175 feet. The takeoff area was 35 feet higher than the target area. So at takeoff, the drone ascended to 140 feet and then started flying to the target. By the time the drone would reach the target with level flight, it would be at the programmed 175 feet AGL. The pilot, watching his altitude, saw that the drone started flying “too early”, at an altitude of 140 feet, which was lower than the 175-foot operating altitude directed by the Airboss. So the pilot prudently paused the autonomous flight and reported the error in altitude. The other flight teams reported similar “errors” in their initial pre-programmed flights. But it turned out the problem was the Airboss misunderstanding how the software worked rather than an error in the software. Because the altitudes were set substantially higher than required to miss obstacles, all flights resulted in successful drops. In hindsight, the Airboss should have suspended Test 3A until the software problem was understood rather than wait to see how things went. This image shows the path for the pre-programmed mission when the target altitude and return altitude are set to 175’ AGL but the target is 35 feet below the takeoff point.

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