Drone Heads Into Thin Air

After brief internment by Nepalese customs, drone is returned to its owner.


The drone copter was being held prisoner.

While ARM engineer Matt Du Puy and his fellow climbers were rotating between camps on Kanchenjunga preparing to ascend the world’s third-highest peak, a key new addition to his ARM-powered electronics kit was being held back by Nepalese customs officials.

The drone copter was shipped to Kathmandu several weeks ago for Matt and team to pick up before they headed toward Kanchenjunga. Some of Matt’s ARM colleagues worked with FedEx to resolve the problem with the Nepalese. This drone is key to this year’s expedition because it’s so small and light that Matt can take far up the mountain

Meanwhile, Matt reported from the thin air, “One of the climbers on another team has a drone he doesn’t know how to use very well so not all is lost. I might be able to get some aerial shots and route photos with it, it just isn’t small enough to carry above base camp.”

Photo: Just below Camp 1 at Kanchenjunga. Source: ARM

In addition to the drone, Matt’s brought a bunch of ARM-powered devices to aid him and his colleagues. These include his Suunto Ambit smart watch, satellite beacon, Outernet networking device, Google Pixel smartphone, Go Pro and Ricoh Theta 360-degree camera.Lakpa Sherpa on Kanchenjunga These devices have made climbing safer in so many different ways, from giving climbers real-time body measurements to gauge health, to communications capabilities for weather forecasts, to GPS tracking to avoid getting lost in blizzards. Check out the kick-off blog here with additional details.

There are still a few problems they can’t yet solve. One is high winds. Chris Jensen Burke, Matt’s longtime climbing partner from New Zealand, reports the Kanchenjunga base camp was battered by jet stream-force winds recently.

“Tents broke, others were collapsed as quickly as possible, all tents and gear had to be secured and humans had to take shelter, when possible, but not before Lakpa (pictured left with the ropes) got hit in the head by a flying rock – he is totally ok. Two unlucky climbers each found themselves in 2 big tents alone and nearly flew out of BC Mary Poppins style, saved only by fellow team members who managed to hold down the tents and then collapse them.”

Mary Poppins indeed. The team has used 1,000m of their 9,000m of climbing rope just to secure their tents.

Another thing electronics can’t do at the moment is prevent sunburn—inside your nostrils. Chris reports she got a case of that in recent days from the sun’s ray reflecting off the snow. Who knew?

You can follow the expedition of course on Chris’ blog, on Matt’s blog and on Matt’s Garmin GPS site, where he posts short messages as time allows.

As the training for the expedition continued at altitude, Matt caught a break: The drone was finally released to a Sherpa. We’ll update you on Matt’s progress as he approaches the start date.

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