The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Another perfect night to fly

The Mini has a service ceiling of 120 m AGL (above ground level) by default. I can jump through some hoops to increase that, but for now, while I'm getting to know how the aircraft handles, that seems just fine.

For example, here are two shots from 110 m half an hour after sunset:

The second one is a dry-run for a before-and-after pair I really can't wait to share. I just want to say, I hope I'm giving historians of the future some good data.

Why didn't I get one of these things years ago?

Beautiful night in Chicago

A combination of crystal-clear air, calm winds, and a setting sun gave me some great shots from the Mini this evening. I visited two locations in Lincoln Square: Welles Park, and the corner of Wilson and Ravenswood. I got this still just a few seconds after taking off:

And here's the highlight reel:

After dinner, I discovered on a third flight that it doesn't shoot great video in low-light conditions. Good to know.

Update: Here's the raw video from my altitude test this morning:

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent

This sort of thing keeps happening, and explains why the police hate the public's ubiquitous video recording:

When CTA supervisor Martesa Lee attempted to lodge a complaint against a Chicago police officer in February, she was given a choice:

Drop her grievance against the officer she accused of pushing her out of an unmarked crime scene on a Red Line platform or face possible arrest.

“Is it worth it to you?” Chicago police Sgt. William Spyker asked her.

It was.

Authorities arrested Lee in front of her co-workers and a platform of CTA riders after she informed the sergeant she would not let the matter go. With her hands cuffed behind her back and tears streaming down her face, she refused additional opportunities to retract her grievance and regain her freedom.

Looking at the facts in the light most favorable to the police, I see no reason to arrest Lee. The time to arrest her for "obstruction of justice" would have been as she actually entered the active crime scene—but even then, it seems clear why the officer chose to let her go.

Spyker's instinct was to arrest someone who disagreed with him, who threatened to make someone on his team fill out some paperwork. He made a blatant argument to force: do this or I will inflict physical violence on you. "Spyker raised the specter of arrest within 35 seconds of Lee approaching him with her concerns," the Tribune pointed out. Despite Spyker's calm demeanor in the video, I'm guessing he didn't have a lot of other tools to use in resolving this dispute.

In fact, "it’s unlikely Haran would face discipline for removing Lee from the crime scene as he has a responsibility to protect the scene’s integrity," one source told the reporter, meaning that all Spyker had to do was take down the complaint and move on with his day. The body cam footage of Lee's initial confrontation with the police is murky at best about who was at fault. Spyker's handling of the situation after the fact is what got this into the newspaper.

(The title of this post is from Foundation by Isaac Azimov.)

Calm winds, altitude test

We had calm winds in my neighborhood this morning, so after walking Parker I grabbed my Mini and did an altitude test. I discovered that I had to replace 3 damaged propeller blades (more on that later), but after fixing the aircraft, I popped it up to 90 m and had a look around:

In the climb to that altitude I discovered that the tallest building in the area is only 70 m tall, and trees tend to be around 25 m tall. These are very useful data points when flying a tiny UAV that doesn't have obstacle-avoidance features.

Update: Here's the raw footage from the test:

Chicago skyline

It was too windy today to get above 30 m, so I just snapped this still before taking the Mini on a "walk" down the block. But I also didn't want to waste a perfectly clear day, so I snapped this before bringing the drone back down to eye level:

When you learn how to fly real planes, you learn slow flight first, because it teaches you how to control the plane precisely. And before I do something to permanently damage the Mini, I thought learning how to control it made a lot of sense.

Alas, the forecast calls for breezy weather all weekend and into early next week. Someday I'll get up to 120 m and let it get farther than half a block from me. Someday.

Today in the weird

It's day 88 of my exile from the office, but I recently found out I may get to go in for a day soon. Will this happen before the 24th (day 100)? Who's got the over/under on that?

Meanwhile, outside my bubble:

And just in case you're not scared of everything on earth, here's a list of things in the cosmos that can help you feel even more scared.

Then and Now, Magnolia and Wilson

I love historian J.R. Schmidt's "Then and Now" series on his Chicago History Today blog. Mostly he posts photos he took as a kid (late 1940s through early 1960s) and contrasts them with contemporary photos.

Then, recently, I came across this photo from a location just a couple of blocks from me that photographer Bob Rehak took during an arson epidemic on 22 April 1976:

Here's the same location today:

Rehak's other photos from the era are incredible. Uptown was in a different universe 45 years ago.

A bit windy

Day 3 of flight testing didn't go as well as I'd hoped. The winds picked up a bit, so my little guy refused to ascend past 28 meters and at one point lost contact with my remote. I have a feeling that radio interference will make urban flying more challenging.

I did get a good look at the lake, though:

The weather forecast looks breezy today and tomorrow, calming a bit Saturday. And if it's calmer around 8pm tonight, I'll try to get some dusk shots of the city. Honestly, the weather interfering with testing the drone feels a bit like the fall of 1999 when weather delays kept pushing my private-pilot checkride back.

At least I didn't crash today. Yesterday I hit a shrub and a fence, the latter impact actually costing me a propeller blade. At least the yet-unnamed quadcopter didn't suffer worse damage.

A busy day

Last weekend's tsunami continues to ripple:

Just another quiet week in 2020...

Wet, warm spring

The second-wettest spring in Chicago's history ended Sunday, clocking in at 427 mm of precipitation since March 1st. (The record was 445 mm set in 1983.)

Temperatures averaged just a bit above normal for the season, at 10.2°C (1.0°C above normal).

Today we might get a record high temperature. The forecast calls for 33°C, which would tie the record set in 1944.

Also, the Lake Michigan-Huron system finished its fifth straight month with record water levels, averaging about 930 mm above normal.

The Illinois State Climatologist office has more.

No larger message here. I just thought a post about the weather would be a good break from everything else.