Appropriate credit to MIT for X8 in adaptive sampling

December 17, 2014

When we started using hobby aircraft  for adaptive atmospheric sampling in 2011, in contrast to static flight plans,  we settled on the X8 after some involved study of a variety of hobby aircraft ("foamies"). We demonstrated its use in  the first autonomous plume hopper that we know in existence to map plume energies. Following experiments, we presented results at AIAA (2013) and in several PI meetings/workshops before and after. The case we made was for a foamie that suited the small scale field experiments in adaptive atmospheric sampling (clouds, plumes, thermals etc.): ~10km range, ~2hr endurance (at best), ~2kg payload etc.

Other groups were interested in similar scales, notably a CU  Boulder aeronautics group. As we pointed out the advantages of our approach at a PI meeting, we heard them say in response, 'that's what we should've done,' namely use hobby aircraft. A bottleneck had just been overcome, we demonstrated skill in a few months at what otherwise seemed like was a  few years stuck. We were thrilled at being validated this way.  The appropriate mechanism is to develop ideas here, test them in the lab., release the information to the public, so that others, hobbyists and international organizations alike, can implement with them and with whom we can possible fruitful collaborations for civilian environmental mapping applications. We continue to do so with an ever widening set of collaborators, who appear to be following this approach now, too.

In 2014, the Boulder group showed up at another PI meeting and later at AGU with the X8 as their aircraft and cognizant of our work  for using foamies for adaptive environmental mapping (afaik, to be corrected perhaps). There are many possible choices of foamies, but a duplication (with acknowledgement one can only hope) by an otherwise respected group would be nice to see. Have we started a movement? To be sure, foamies have been used in static flight plans for a while before (SUMO comes to mind), and continue to be used (a great poster on cloud data by Reading at AGU 2014). In X8, however, was the match to scales for adaptive sampling that we first demonstrated on the autonomous plume hopper. As a hobbyist and amateur flyer, it was thrilling for us to see professional aeronautical engineers abandon long developed frames and join our hobby world!

Even as all the copying is flattering, we've noted some basic spiral mode issues with flying the X8. There is now a modified airframe, the S9, found elsewhere in this blog and being implemented into an operational aircraft by Itzamna Aero. We will appreciate a reference to our work if you do end up using hobby aircraft in adaptive sampling (which led to a nontrival advance).