HAMNET Report 13th June 2021

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that a new report by two Canadian researchers is highlighting the growing hazard of space debris. It warns that the new mega-constellations of tens of thousands of communication satellites could pose a new kind of danger that could ultimately threaten other satellites, astronauts, our ability to use space and could even have an impact on the climate.

Recently, that uncontrolled fall from space of a large Chinese rocket booster gained worldwide attention as no one could predict where it would come crashing to Earth. Fortunately, it came down in the Indian Ocean and no one was injured.

That was just one booster.

The amount of stuff from satellites, discarded boosters and other debris in Earth orbit is huge. And this new report warns that with projects like the SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation, the issue of space debris could approach a critical turning point.

In the light of that, it came as bad news that Fraser Cain, writing in Universe Today, notes that a piece of space flotsam was discovered to have hit the Canadarm2 Robotic arm on the ISS. Fortunately the damage was to the arm boom and its thermal blanket, and doesn’t seem to have affected its operation at all – a lucky break indeed. These bits of debris can be travelling at the speed of a bullet on earth, and have no difficulty in causing a penetrating injury to their target. The ISS is lucky to have escaped any major injuries so far.

In clever use of drone technology, the international ResponDrone project has integrated into its situation awareness system for emergency situations a near real-time 3D mapping solution to provide on-site emergency teams with tools that will help them better to evaluate their working environment.

The upgraded ResponDrone System will provide accurate location information to first responders, especially in relation to infrastructure, when called on to deal with a fire, flood or any other natural disaster.

ResponDrone has signed an agreement with Hivemapper to integrate its latest crowdsourced mapping technology. The ResponDrone System can now fly a mission over an area, process the collected data and turn it into an up-to-date 3D map. This is in line with the modular approach ResponDrone has adopted in the design of its platform, allowing easy expansion of the platform using state-of-the-art technology and giving first responders access to those tools.

“The need to provide precision 3D mapping to rescue teams as fast as possible has been identified by ResponDrone as a key capability toward attaining its goal of maximizing situation awareness for first responders,” said ResponDrone project coordinator Max Friedrich of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

“If an ambulance driver uses an outdated map to arrive at the scene of an accident, or a firefighting crew can’t get to the scene of the forest fire as roads have been blocked due to falling trees as a result of the wildfire, the results could be fatal.”

By using Hivemapper technology, ResponDrone will serve the needs of emergency services by providing the teams on the ground with the highly focused and updated situational awareness they need.

The broader community will benefit from the updated mapping data as the impact of natural disasters will be reflected in the mapping app in near real time, which might otherwise have taken years to feature on traditional mapping platforms.

Thanks to techxplore.com for that report.

Continuing the theme of clever drone usage, here’s a heart-warming story of a drone pilot, who realised he could put an infrared camera, a spotlight and a 180 x zoom lens on his drone, and use it to search for missing animals, or animals stranded by bad weather or fires.

Professional drone pilot Douglas Thron has, since 2018, rescued critters from fires in California and Australia, floods in Louisiana, and other disasters anywhere they’ve struck. He told TreeHugger.com the Australian inferno produced multiple forms of hell – including 20-hour work days.

Thron said “It was challenging because the hurt koalas were deep in burnt out forests, often with a dense canopy. It was so hot out you had to fly strictly at night with spotlights and infrared and fly the drone pretty far and often drop it down through the trees to see the animals, which takes a lot of skill. Koalas are also very aggressive and strong, and not always thrilled when you go to grab them out of a tree to rescue them.”

Thron works with individuals and associations that care for the scores of rescued animals he locates. But whenever he can, he goes the extra search-and-rescue mile to find their owners – enabling what are invariably joyous and boundlessly relieved reunions.

“It’s awesome to be able to save people’s cats and dogs because, frequently, that might be the only thing they have left after a fire or hurricane. Obviously, for the animal’s sake, it’s so incredible because without the infrared drone, in many cases, the animal would have never been found and would have died, sometimes a slow and painful death”, he said.

There is apparently a trailer dedicated to this man’s rescues, called appropriately “Doug to the Rescue”. View it on the channel “Curiosity Stream” on YouTube

Finally, China has released a picture this week of a selfie taken of its Tianwen-1 lander and its Zhurong Rover together on Mars. Apparently, included in the lander system is a remote camera, which Zhurong went and placed a little way away from Tianwen-1, and then went back to park next to Tianwen-1, so that the remote camera could take the picture. And Zhurong, with its solar panels unfurled like wings and its own cameras and presumably lasers installed on a head-like projection above the rover, looks a bit like a baby duck shaking its wings and trying to fly. More than one person on FaceBook has wished they had a pet that looked like Zhurong!

Look for “Zhurong and Tainwen-1 selfie” on google – I’m sure you’ll agree with them.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.