Sunday, February 1, 2015

The TATTS Story

In the late summer of 2014, DJI reached out to TATTS and asked if we'd be willing to be part of their 'DJI Stories' campaign.  They loved what the kids were doing and wanted to share it with their customers and partners.  Naturally, we were thrilled to have an opportunity to promote our awesome kids.

We began with a handful of conference calls with DJI staff and the producer discussing things such as DJI's intent with this effort, what we'd be asking from the kids, how it would be distributed, and most importantly, an "autism 101" for the producer and crew.  Once we were all on the same page, DJI flew the producer, 2 cameramen, a sound person and a 2-person aerial film crew from Los Angeles to Wisconsin.  Local experts were brought in to assist with lighting and sound.  We hosted this crew of 8 for an entire weekend.  There were some intense, reality show moments given the proximity of the cameramen to the kids (I recall one comment being made that "you're stalking me" as the cameraman was 18" from Mitchell's face).  But all in all, it worked out beautifully. 

The video is 3 minutes long and was published on YouTube at the end of November, 2014 and as of February 1st, 2015 it has received over 150,000 hits!  It's very well done and showcases how this technology connects with these kids.  Not to mention, its bolstered the self-esteem of the kids involved.  After all, how many hits do your videos have on YouTube?

We would like to thank DJI for the effort they put in to share the great work of TATTS kids.  Enjoy!


Below are a few still shots of the crew. 

Mitchell getting mic'd up
Camera crew in our house
Camera crew with Mitchell in his bedroom
The pilot for DJI's aerial film crew - a 2 person operation
DJI's aerial crew camera operator
Ground crew filming us while we fly - note the boom mic
Ground crew capturing us talking through flight mechanics
Mitchell with the producer - Don Broida

Monday, November 10, 2014

Perspective Taking via Drones

Perspective taking is a key social skill.  We need that in any relationship we have be it with family, kids at school, colleagues at work, or romantic relationships.  TATTS targets this directly through the use of aerial imagery from drones.  One example of such an effort is when we asked kids to draw 'before' and 'after' pictures of what they thought their surroundings looked like from a bird's perspective.  Their new insights are wonderful.

BEFORE - Much of what they draw relates to what is immediately around them.

Has the basics - people, building, 2 trees

Shows our group forming an arrow on the ground to be seen from the sky

Has a few buildings

 AFTER - Once they've reviewed the aerial footage, their perspective completely evolves.

Horizon line, roads, several lakes in the area

Full lake represented with a forest of trees around it

Full context of the playground, neighborhood, woods and roads
Imagine how these news perspectives can translate into the rest of their lives be it working in groups at school, participating on a team project at their job or being a loving and supporting partner in a relationship.  It is our hope and focus to help these new skills translate into their rest of their lives.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Paratrooper Mario

Our most recent TATTS event showcased 'Paratrooper Mario'.  Given that TATTS team members are so crazy about all things Mario, we thought it'd be cool to have him parachute from the F550 hexarotor.  We built a harness and goggles from Duct Tape (after all, you can't parachute without goggles) and a parachute from a good sized piece of plastic.

Mario with his goggles, harness and chute

Mario ready to launch.  White sheet is target to hit when landing
The goal was for the kids to fly the drone, estimate wind direction to determine a good spot to release Mario and then to release him and see if he hits the target (the white sheet). We offered a $5 cash prize to anyone who could pull it off. We came close a few times but no cash winners.
Paratrooper Mario making his descent
The kids enjoyed watching the action at the base station which was fed by the real-time video download from one of our other drones - a Phantom 2.

Kids enjoying the base station views of Paratrooper Mario
Drones in the air

We were also fortunate to have a beautiful fall day to fly. Fall color was peaking which is evident in the aerial shots we took.

Take a look at a quick clip of one of Mario's flights.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Summer 2014 Field Work

The TATTS team was busy this summer on many different missions including flying to support shoreland restoration efforts in northern Wisconsin, collecting imagery on a cabin in northern Wisconsin, and imaging corn fields in south central Wisconsin.

Connor prepares the camera and gimbal prior to an autonomous flight
Shoreland restoration shot in northern Wisconsin
Shoreland restoration shot in northern Wisconsin
Aerial shot of the team collecting imagery for shoreland restoration

Connor reviews the flight plan to prepare for flying autonomously

Aerial view of cabin in northern Wisconsin

Mitchell and Benicio giving a thumbs up on the flight

Discussing autonomous flying with line of sight


Sunday, September 7, 2014

We're Finalists!

TATTS received word yesterday that we are finalists for the Drone Social Innovation Award!  The winner of the $10,000 cash prize for "the most socially beneficial, documented use of a drone platform costing less than $3,000" will be announced on September 15th.  Wish us luck!

The full description of the contest and award is available here.

Our video submittal is on our YouTube channel here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Drone Social Innovation Award

The Drone User Group Network is offering a $10,000 cash prize to the most socially beneficial, documented use of a drone. They call it the Drone Social Innovation Award. 

When we saw that "social" was in the title of the award, we couldn't help but think "that's us!"  We at TATTS unabashedly believe that our focus of combining drones with autism/social skills development is the best application of drones for a social good.   We define social as the skills that people on the autism spectrum so desperately need.  A few examples are:
  • Working in a team
  • Turn taking
  • Perspective taking
  • Showing and expressing empathy
  • Making positive comments
We also focus on the development of skills that can assist in the finding and holding of employment.  Drones are a burgeoning industry and young adults on the autism spectrum are a perfect fit from equipment maintenance, flight planning, field execution, and image processing.

Watch our video submittal, like it on YouTube and wish us luck!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fleet Maintenance - Safety First!

Fleet maintenance is an integral part to all the flying that we do.  Any good drone pilot will tell you that pre and post flight checks keep the pilot, the equipment and all those around them safe.  It's amazing how many little things need a little attention after flying.  Like any aircraft, drones need consistent and meticulous care to ensure they are flight worthy.  To that end, TATTS team members participate in all aspects of maintaining the fleet from battery charging to tightening screws, checking the props, body and all electronics for wear, and ensuring that all electical connections are solid and stable. 

Fleet maintenance is one aspect of civilian drone use where young adults and adults on the autism spectrum are very employable.  After all, skill development that may lead to employment opportunities is a key tenet of TATTS.  Attention to detail and focus are some of our team's many strengths and they take good care of the fleet.

Mitchell charges batteries

DJI has graciously donated 4 additional F550 hexacopters of which we have several built below.  The kids follow a standardized checklist of things to check to ensure the aircrafts are flight worthy so that the team and our surroundings are safe.

Mitchell and Torin checking all the screws (there are over 75 on one drone!) and electrical connections