Welcome

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I am a software/aerospace engineer working at the University of Minnesota Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics Department.  My degree is in computer science.  I have been building and flying model airplanes since I was a geeky kid.  In 1996 I was one of the co-founders of the FlightGear project (an open-source flight simulator.)  In the mid-2000’s I started getting involved with UAV’s and have participated in UAV projects through Airborne Technologies, Inc. in Alaska, NOAA, Lockheed Martin, the University of Minnesota, and now Sentera (a cool local Minnesota UAV company.)

I use this site as a virtual scrapbook and occasionally post longer messages about things I’m interested in or working on.

You are welcome to follow me on google plus where I might post shorter blurbs or pictures more frequently: https://plus.google.com/+CurtisOlson/posts

(October 2015) Recently I have been doing quite a bit of work developing an open-source image stitching pipeline.  I plan to write a series of introductory articles on the process of image stitching and also as a tutorial for others interested in running my code.

(October 2015) I started building my very first multi-rotor (a mini tri copter from an rcexplorer.se).  So far I’ve been really impressed with the quality and care that has gone into the design.

I have added quite a bit of content to this site over the years which you can find through the menus and categories in the side bar.  Here are a few of my recent posts for starters:

  • Sunset Flight (9/11/2017) - This is Skywalker Flight #74, flown on Sept. 7, 2017.  It ended up being a 38.5 minute flight–scheduled to land right at sunset.  The purpose of the flight was to carry insect traps at 300′ AGL and collect samples of what might be flying up at that altitude. What I like about this flight is …
  • Field Comparison of MPU6000 vs VN100T (9/6/2017) - The U of MN UAV Lab has flown a variety of sensors in aircraft, ranging from the lowly MPU-6000 (such as is found on an atmel based APM2 board) all the way up to an expensive temperature calibrated VectorNAV VN-100T.  I wish to present a quick field comparison of these two sensors. [disclaimers: there are …
  • Drosophila-nator (Prototype) (8/28/2017) - This is a joint Entomology / Aerospace project to look for evidence that Spotted Wing Drosophila (an invasive species to North America) may be migrating at higher altitudes where wind currents can carry them further and faster than otherwise expected. Skywalker Flight #69 Altitude: 200′ AGL Airspeed: 20 kts Weather:  10 kts wind, 22C Mission: …
  • Flying on the Edge of a Storm (8/25/2017) - This is a follow up to my eclipse post.  I was forced to end my eclipse flight 10 minutes before the peak because a line of rain was just starting to roll over the top of me.  I waited about 20-30 minutes for the rain to clear and launched a post-eclipse flight that lasted just …
  • Flying on the Edge of an Eclipse (2017) (8/25/2017) - On August 21, 2017 a full solar eclipse sliced a shadowy swath across the entire continental USA.  The totality area missed Minnesota by a few hundred miles so we only saw about 85% obscuration at our peak. I thought it could be interesting to put a UAV in the sky during our partial eclipse and …