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:

  • Aerial Survey Flight (with Augmented Reality) (11/7/2017) - Basic Details Date: October 11, 2017 Location: South Central Ag Lab (near Clay Center, NE) Aircraft: Skywalker 1900 with AuraUAS autopilot system. Wing camera with augmented reality elements added (flight track, astronomy, horizon.) Wind: (from) 160 @ 16 kts (18.5 mph) and very turbulent. Temperature: 65 F (18 C) Target Cruise: 25 kts (~29 mph) …
  • Spin Testing (10/4/2017) - Wikipedia Spins: In aviation’s early days, spins were poorly understood and often fatal. Proper recovery procedures were unknown, and a pilot’s instinct to pull back on the stick served only to make a spin worse. Because of this, the spin earned a reputation as an unpredictable danger that might snatch an aviator’s life at any …
  • 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: …