Skip to navigationSkip to contentSkip to footer



TREX 2018 Day 3: The Unnamed Drone

Written by:
TREX 2018 Day 3: The Unnamed Drone

By Suchan Vivatsethachai `20

After building sensors the other day, today we had a chance to fly TREX’s drone for the first time. The drone, packed in a sturdy suitcase, was carried to the coffee farm, not too far from the camp. After we had some local Hawaiian coffee, we walked to an open field between a row of banana trees and the coffee farm.

TREX team trying to reassemble the drone.

The process of assembling the drone was straightforward: putting a battery in the drone and attaching four wings. In case anyone was wondering, the drone was DJI Phantom enhanced with an extra sensor by a third party. The drone was then able to capture infrared and near-infrared index that help measure the quality of the soil and vegetation.

There were only 3 batteries and each last only approximately 25 minutes, so we were limited to fly about 3 flights. During the first take off, we were quite excited; it was also the first time I had seen a drone take off.

TREXers taking picture of the drone taking off

The drone in the sky

Since the drone could not fly too high, it had to take multiple pictures along the path. The pictures overlapped with each other, allowed us to merge them into a large picture for further data analysis. We thought the process of merging would be quite complicated. However, with Photoshop, we managed to stitch them together quite neatly.

Multiple images from the augmented sensor stay on top of each other based on Photoshop’s algorithm

Final image after the stitching process

In the end, we agreed that this drone need a name! Professor Kocar also mentioned that we all should write our names on the drone. At some point, we will hold an official naming competition later, so TREX next year will have a named drone with lots of TREXers’ names!


Every year, a group of MIT students and professors travel to the Big Island of Hawaii to gain fieldwork experience through TREX (Traveling Research Environmental EXperiences). The first TREX trip was held in 2000, and since launching has taken students on research activities in domestic and international settings. For more undergraduate opportunities, click here.