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 Deer (6/6/2017) - Last Friday I flew an aerial photography test flight using a Skywalker 1900 and a Sony A6000 camera (with 20mm lens.)  On final approach we noticed a pair of deer crossing under the airplane.  I went back through the image set to see if I could spot the deer in any of the pictures.  I found …
  • Continuously Self Calibrating UAV Compass (3/13/2017) - Manual UAV sensor calibration is dead! I know the above statement isn’t exactly true, but it could be true if everyone who develops UAVs would read this article. 🙂 In this article I propose a system that continuously and dynamically self calibrates the magnetometers on a flying UAV so that manual calibration is no longer …
  • Autopilot Visualization: Flight Track (2/13/2017) -   Augmented reality Everything in this post shows real imagery taken from a real camera from a real uav which is really in flight.  Hopefully that is obvious, but I just want to point out I’m not cheating.  However, with a bit of math and a bit of camera calibration work, and a fairly accurate EKF, …
  • Zombie Door (1/21/2017) - Run!!! Zombies are pretty cool.  This post describes something a little less cool, but uses zombies to explain the concept (in a shallow, transparent attempt to capture your attention!) Zombie Door Method Imagine we want to generate a uniformly distributed random sampling in some complex space that our random number generator does not directly support. …
  • Failure is not fatal (1/10/2017) - This post is penned during a moment of extreme frustration, beware! Kobayashi Maru https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobayashi_Maru One of the reasons I loved the original Star Trek series is because no matter what the odds, no matter how hopeless the circumstances, no matter how impossible the foe, Captain Kirk always found a way to think his way out of …