Things are going wonderfully in Maryland! We spent most of today in class, getting lots of safety briefings and learning a bunch. It was very useful, and as first time racers with a brand new team, the information was very much appreciated! At the end of the day we had the start banquet, and we got to talk to some really cool racers! One, in particular, participated/led/organized a 49-plane formation. Chloé and I both did a 3-plane formation for Purdue Day of Giving with other PPI members, and that was HARD, so I cannot imagine having that many airplanes next to my wing!
But let’s get to the important stuff: Chloé gave me her stamp of approval: she said I’m a good and useful engineer. All because I fixed our Stratux unit in the hotel room, which stopped working on our last leg to Maryland. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but let’s not tell her that.
A Stratux is basically a DIY ADS-B receiver, built using a Raspberry Pi. As you can see in our picture, our unit is wrapped up in cardboard to reduce weight! It uses two antennas to get traffic information and weather reports/radar from ground-based ADS-B towers and other aircraft that transmit their own positions. I could go on talking about how ADS-B works for days, but you probably don’t want to read all that, so just know this: it’s really useful in a race where we are trying to make the best of the winds we get! Having this information in air means that Chloé and I (but mainly Chloé!!) can make informed decisions about our plans after each leg. It also means we can keep track of the other racers who might be flying close to us, see who’s passing us, how fast they are going, etc. We basically have the same view that you would get on websites like flightaware and flightradar24. We even get airliner traffic flying 30,000 ft above us. Needless to say, having such a useful asset break on us was a little disappointing, so we are happy to have it back!
You can see a couple of screenshots of the information that the Stratux can give us below. The yellow circles are there airplanes, the green/blue squares are airports with weather information, and you can probably interpret the radar overlay yourselves! When using such products, it’s important to remember that there is a latency in the information we get, so trust what you see outside the window more than the tablet screen! The radar screen is from our leg into Morgantown, WV, from Coshocton, OH. The traffic screen is from our leg to Coshocton, OH, from Purdue (Chloé’s leg!)
Tomorrow we have another day of briefings. These ones are particularly important. We’ll be going over flyby procedures and things we need to know for those, so we’re looking forward to learning a bunch more. We will also talk about takeoff procedures, which should be interesting: we have approximately 55 airplanes taking off one after the other in 30 second increments. The airport will be busy and it should be cool to watch!! Today we went over airspace, and let me tell you, I’ve never had to navigate so much restricted airspace and so many Air Force Bases. New race goal: don’t bust airspace we’re not supposed to be in! Good thing we’re well prepared and know what to expect!