Tuesday Views: 1 February 2022

Unknown photographer at this time. Frick Park bridge collapsed January 2022
Weather – PAS for Verticals Youth Empowerment Center – Thermal Camera – Drone Build Resuming

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Hi, Orion Drones wants to bring drone services to your town, your next event, your business, to you! We are passionate about photography, aeronautics, inspections, and drone service integration. We bring you news and views here on the blog roll each week on Tuesday at 8:26 am EST, 13:26 UTC. Thanks for visiting!

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This feature image shows Frick Park in downtown Pittsburgh, PA, hours after the collapse sent cars, trucks, and an articulated city bus crashing down 100 feet to the creek bed that flows under the 50-year old bridge. Luckily, no one was killed, but 10 people went to the hospital. A natural gas line ruptured. Nearby residents described a ‘loud, rushing sound’ after an ‘initial crash’. One survivor emerged relatively unhurt, and he copped a ride with an EMT to work. Just to remind everyone: In the event of a nuclear attack, cash bashes, work schedules, and county fairs will operate as scheduled.

Biden dropped by and took a look at this bridge. Pittsburgh is called ‘the City of Bridges’ due to the fricking huge number of bridges here. In a way, through the voice of gravity, the city cries out for help.

I applied for a job doing bridge inspections like this crew, many times, and was told, many times, that there was no work. A day older and a dollar shorter later, we have infrastructure problems. Local cops are too expensive. State Patrol money comes out of the transportation budget = failing bridges. Maybe fixing bridges and patrolling them are two distinctively different functions. Maybe they should never be mutually exclusive.


Cold Snap Ends in a Couple of Days

The weather dipped into the single digits during the past week. It was so cold that ice melt mixtures fail. Rather than risking damage to my batteries or other parts of my UAS, I decided to keep everything on the ground last month. I interviewed for a job as a UAS technician that involved a lot of travel. I am unable to travel much due to family responsibilities. Grounded in different ways, I eagerly await the break in the weather to arrive in the next couple of days. I am getting footage from the Laurel Highlands this week.

Aerials Up

In February, winter makes a final push to bury everything in snow. Sometimes we get as much as a foot of snow. Big wet ribstickers weigh on the boughs and snap them over cars and power lines. The run-off is incredible, and during the thaw at the end of the month, our wharf is completely submerged under 4 to 8 feet of water. Sometimes we get a lot of damage to the roadways. They crack and split. There are washouts on twisty roads impassable due to fallen trees. Nothing new, winter fades, and props go up again. It would be smart to get aerial views of outdoor work sites with a commercial drone operator after the melt. Statistics from the almanac predict another big snow in a week or two. As it is, we are forecast for rain and snow next weekend.


The ‘next generation automated ATC plan’ (NextGen) involves automated airspace traffic management. Automation improves existing systems, and flight volume shifts from passenger to commercial transport over the next dozen years. 5G affects weather forecasting. Some studies suggest a maximum 30% reduction in accuracy. There is a reasonable concern that some aircraft could become unsafe if it is unable to use 5G. This, in turn, can be remedied through an enriched, decentralized air traffic monitoring system using sensors and transponders that can build awareness as another layer of redundancy for actual pilots, ATC staff, and airport managers – and PIC drone operators like myself.

We are swimming in an ocean of sensors. A lot of this data can be pulled from forms of transportation like cars and trains, weather stations on rooftops, and passing aircraft.


Like James Webb’ telescope, a high gain antenna can provide for BVLOS command and control. High gain is good for a relatively narrow transmission, like a laser, and can be more seriously affected by impediments to the line of sight. Cell phone towers could host BVLOS transmission using ad-hoc multihops through nodal space corresponding to a geographic location. If you wanted to transport small goods, or monitor long form objects such as a windfarm, or a pipeline, you need a drone sporting 5G. Your range is limited by battery power. More efficient than a quad, delta-wing craft can patrol longer distances due aerodynamics permitting gliding action, passive lifting over the wings and control surfaces on a moving aircraft, or through use of thermal updrafts. Drones can hover. Drones can accelerate so quickly that they are difficult to see with the human eye. Everyone wants faster transmission, less lag, clearer signals, and improved network performance. 5G provides these gains.

Luckily, SW Pennsylvania is getting the chance to improve its telecommunications infrastructure. We will get 5G and optical fiber rollouts, hopefully.

In housekeeping gains, I got my business through sam.gov, so I am able to both understand and work within the scope of contracted services at applicable rates. That feels good. I now have a CAGE #, and I can build a backlog of jobs. Eager to help, able to add value, and willing to learn.

(706) 476-3226 or jphillips@orion-drones.com for more information.

Community Development

How It’s Going: Update

Verticals is a local community development center that hopes to energize Brownsville’s future with after-school programs that enrich young lives and provide a sense of pride in community. A link to the group is provided. I signed on as a drone coach and kicked them some material for training modules. I was going to teach kids how to fly recreational drones, get the manadatory – and EASY -TRUST flyer certificate from the FAA, online, for free, and then get down to business. I was going to teach them how to make a video with a drone. We would go over flight plans, cinematography, operations, editing, and then presentation. This module was planned to integrate seamlessly within a larger ecosystem of course in other technology applications, physical well-being, and business development.

Topics in the Verticals Youth Empowerment program include artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, drones, digital fabrication, coding, media production, design studio, blockchain, and crypto. They are presented alongside fitness and wellness resources. Verticals Youth Empowerment Center is designed to stimulate young minds, give parents an inclusive environment in which to socialize, and to offer youth a sense of pride in themselves and their community. I am really excited to be a part of the team.

New Gear

Thermal Camera – Late entry due to PEMDAS lesson in middle school, (I am grapefruit to be part of a learning experience). I got this camera to create some object recognition programs. I am interested in physics, and these tools help me visualize what is happening. I wanted to work on this over the weekend, but I have dad modes that engage every Saturday morning, and this blizzard forced me to complete Zelda: Breath of the Wild so I could teach him how to get certain gear. Wow, that game is awesome! For children. Not for adults. If you see any, let me know.

Leonardo Da Vinci Segue

When I see Leonardo Da Vinci’s Archimedes screw propellers working on a quadcopter, I suddenly see the modern propeller as a sort of curved cross-section of a helix. Then it makes sense. The propeller just creates a pattern in the atmosphere described as a screw, a double helix. I see a ‘screw of air currents’ directing a force against gravity. Unscrewing gravity.

Back to the camera. What a cool find. I will go back and get the information about the manufacturer. I helped kickstart this. Hope it works.

open mv camera hardware

Open MV Pure Thermal

In Figure 1, we have the board, and below the guts, l-r, wr have the left side, the right side, detail lower right, detail upper left. I can buy a thermal camera for about as much, but I am here for brain. This is the way. I will booth this sucker up tonight if I don’t fall into a taco coma. As opposed to quantum physics, thermal reactions are easily modelled with popular software. I can dig around and find stuff. I will modify some code. The back of the camera is a screen. I need a 3″ x 5″ mounting frame. I am going to design and print a simple case for it. That happens today, after I fly the drone for the first time in a month.

The FLIR Lepton is cool. You should be able to put one of these on any portable device. I am missing that camera, due to budgetary constraints – my kids are doing well in school, and I reward them with the money I make there – so I just got the regular old MV camera. So, next week will have an update on the camera set-up.

Open MV Camera details
Figure 1. Open MV Camera without FLIR Lepton
QR to demo video for Open MV Pure Thermal
QR to demo video

Drone Build Resuming

I made a couple of toys last weekend. I actually dig the faux Asteroids game. So, I am going to finish a rec drone. I think this drone might be illegal by September. I need to verify regulations on radio transmission protocols. I am interested in moving on to a delta wing, so I want to wrap this. I want to use a wing design suite from NASA’s tech transfer program to tweak a big D-wing for 20-mile flights in the weather below 400 feet. I want to model an idea or two.

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I became a drone technology service integration researcher in 2017 while in university. When I am not working on drones, I am researching related scientific reports and industry news, flying drones, or tinkering with electronics. Contact me for information about services.

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