Pixalytics Goes To Space … Well, Nearly!

Last week the Pixalytics name got lifted towards space! In a previous blog we described how we were supporting the Plymouth University Space Society launching a weather balloon.

After a number of attempts were thwarted by the wind and weather patterns of Plymouth, last Friday was the big day. A small band of the Space Society pioneers alongside myself and Howard from Salcombe Gin, spent half an hour battling to control a weather balloon in the wind as it was pumped full of gas and had a small Pixalytics branded payload attached including a Go-Pro Camera, balloon locator, various battery packs and a small bottle of Salcombe Gin. At the top of the blog is an image of the gin high above Plymouth.

Once we were ready, the balloon was carefully walked back a few paces, and then with our hearts in our mouths, it was launched! We watched it rise gloriously until it disappeared into the low cloud that was covering the city. For anyone who wants to see the launch, it was filmed and streamed on Facebook and the recording can be found here.

Once the launch euphoria had subsided, the Space Society team jumped into a car to follow the balloon towards the predicted landing site of Taunton. The payload had a device inside which when called replied with the balloon’s location to enable progress to be tracked. The balloon actually ended up around thirty miles to the east of the prediction, coming to rest back on Earth in Yeovil. Once they got close, the team had to ask an elderly resident for permission to look through her garden for the payload package. However, it was a success and the payload was retrieved!!

On examination of the footage, sadly the Go-Pro seemed to malfunction about 15 minutes into the flight and therefore we were not able to get full flight footage. However, this is the space industry and not everything goes to plan. Once you launch most things are out of your hands!

From the flight length and distance travelled the Space Society team estimate that the balloon went up above 32,000 m. Whilst that is only about one third of the way to the Karman line, which sits around 100,000m and is commonly viewed as the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and the outer space, it’s probably the highest point the Pixalytics name will ever get!

Readers will be aware that we do like the unusual marketing opportunity. We’ve previously had our name going at 100 miles per hour aboard a Caterham Formula One car, so who knows what might be next?

It was great to support local students with their adventure towards space, and hopefully it will inspire them to get a job in our industry and develop their own space career!

First Small Steps in Remote Sensing

The International Space Station is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, Woodford, VA.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The International Space Station is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015, Woodford, VA. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

It’s not often you get given the opportunity to travel, live in an exciting new city and get an incredible internship all in one. So when I heard about the Erasmus+ Programme I applied right away! I wanted to gain more experience in remote sensing.

When I was little I had a very big poster of the moon surface hung on my wall, it had so much detail and I would stare at it every night before I went to bed. After my parents bought my first computer, I started to search for more images of the moon and other planets and I was impressed by the complexity of what I found. This was the beginning of my fascination with remote sensing. When it came to choosing my career path, it was not hard. I knew what I wanted to become and now it sounds, and feels, right to call myself a Geomatics Engineer.

I’m currently studying two undergraduate degrees in Surveying, and Civil Engineering; but it was still hard to find an Erasmus work placement for remote sensing. I managed to find the Pixalytics Ltd with my teacher’s help, as he had previously met Dr Samantha Lavender.

After finding a place to do your internship the rest is should be easy, but not for United Kingdom. Getting my work permit from British Council was a really challenging process, and took me exactly three months. Despite doing everything right, getting responses to my emails for sponsorship was hard. It was the most awful part of the process for me, because there was nothing I could do except wait. Finally, after a lot of patience my visa arrived and I was on my way to Plymouth!

The last issue, and some people’s main concern, is getting accommodation. I did not find it hard to find a place to stay because most of the students were out of town. With a basic search on the internet I found a flat in four days, it is based a few hundred metres from the centre of Plymouth and close to the bus route to Pixalytics.

I thought I had read and traveled enough to be prepared when I stepped off the plane in London, but it was still a shock standing alone with my suitcase and hearing all the British accents around me. At first, it was difficult to adapt to the language as the accents are sometimes hard to understand. But once I’d grasped the pronunciation, I believe I’m improving every week.

Working at Pixalytics will be my first internship experience, and I am so grateful to Samantha Lavender for giving me this opportunity. Working abroad will be a memory and lesson in itself but I hope to also I hope to enhance my discipline and knowledge as well as applying my existing engineering and personal skills.

Getting my internship was a long, difficult and exhausting process, but I realized that it’s totally worth it as soon as I got to Plymouth, If anyone is thinking of applying to the Erasmus+ programme, I would totally recommend it!

Blog by Selin Cakaloglu, Erasmus+ Intern at Pixalytics

34th EARSeL Symposium

Last week I attended the 34th Symposium of the European Association of Remote Sensing Laboratories, known as EARSeL, in Warsaw, Poland. Originally formed in 1977, EARSeL is a scientific network of academic and commercial remote sensing organisations. It aims include:

  • promoting education and training related to remote sensing and specifically Earth Observation (EO),
  • undertaking joint research projects on the use, and application, of remote sensing,
  • providing governmental, and non-governmental organisations, with a network of remote sensing experts.
EARSeL Bureau Handover Warsaw 2014

EARSeL Bureau Handover
Warsaw 2014

EARSeL is run by a Council of elected national representatives and an executive Bureau, elected by the Council. For the last year I have been proud to serve on the EARSeL executive Bureau as Treasurer for the organisation.  My term of office finished at the symposium, and I’d like to wish the new Bureau a successful year.

In addition I was also the co-chair and presenter for the Oceans & Coastal Zones session on the Monday afternoon and on the Wednesday I taught a session on ‘Introduction to optical data processing with BEAM’ as part of the joint EARSeL & ISPRS (International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing) Young Scientist Days which ran alongside the symposium.

For me the promotion of science generally, and specifically Earth Observation (EO), is an integral part of running Pixalytics. I want to support more people to understand and get involved; in particular, it’s vital that we educate and inspire the early career, and next generation, scientists.

It’s for these reasons that I enjoy working with, and being part of, organisations that are working to inform, educate and promote similar scientific aims. As well as EARSeL treasurer, I was also the Chair of the UK Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society (RSPSoc) for three years, and I’m currently vice-chairman of the British Association of Remote Sensing Companies (BARSC).

It can be challenging to balance the income earning side of Pixalytics with the volunteering side, but it’s worth it. There is a real case for businesses getting their employees to volunteer to support work outside of the company, whether it’s industry promotion, teaching or helping support social issues in the local community. Aside from the obvious support for the cause they are volunteering for, it can also help develop skills in time management, decision-making and leadership.

I’ve learnt a huge amount working with the different organisations, as well as developing skills I’ve met people outside my specialism and have strengthened by business network.  I have no intention of stopping volunteering, and I’ve always got one eye out for new opportunities. Volunteering can add value to your company, however large or small, and I’d recommend all organisations should consider the opportunities this could provide for them and their employees.