Mapping & POI Update Expedition WA/NT 2022 - Overview

Thursday, Oct 06, 2022 at 06:36

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

What an epic research expedition it's been working on-the-road! But, of course it has been good to get back home to the convenience of a normal office and reliable internet. In truth, it was quite a struggle to keep up with some aspects of our work as I'll explain later in this blog. But for now, here's a summary of where we went and what this trip was all about.

Following on from part 1 of our WA/NT trip to Steep Point & Dirk Hartog Island in May - June of this year, (SEE THIS BLOG) , we had a 2 week return to home then headed off 2nd July for the 2nd stage of this trip. This portion of the trip was 63 days long, and we travelled almost 10,000km and stopped at 40 different overnight camp locations. That's an average of only 158km of driving per day. It's a slow process to do the type of work we do.

For those interested, our vehicle is a 2008 model Toyota Landcruiser GXL 200 series, and we tow a 2009 model Ultimate Camper Trailer, Odyssey Elite edition. Undoubtedly, a true offroad camper trailer. Anywhere the Landcruiser can go, David is confident he can take the Ultimate so we are not restricted in anyway with our adventurous explorations poking down unknown tracks etc.
Here's the Track Log showing the entire journey. Remember, you can interact with this map to enlarge to fullscreen, and zoom in, click to load the overnight stops, and click Segment Explorer to see the driving statistics for each day's travel.

This file was tracked with the ExplorOz Traveller App on a T'eyes headunit.

App Testing

App testing is something we do daily in our business and of course we have beta testers and a team of app users in the ExplorOz community that are valued users that we work with regularly. But nothing replaces the hands-on experience. At the start of this trip we had version 7.3 loaded on all our devices - these consisted of:-
  • Headunit in our 200 series Landcruiser (aftermarket fitted Android T'eyes SPRO 10.1'') running a very old version of Android
  • 2 x iPads: - an 8th Gen iPad and iPad Air (4th Gen) - both Wifi only using Garmin Glo 2 (bluetooth) external GPS receiver for offline location services and hotspotting to an Android phone for data (internet) when service was available
  • 2 x Android phones:- Samsung A52 with Android 12 operating system
  • 1 x iPhone 13 was also purchased during the trip (there's a story about this coming up in the blog)
  • 2x Windows laptops:- these were not in use for active mapping/navigation
We also had a Drone (DJI Mavic Pro) and an EOS-R mirrorless Canon camera on which I take all video footage in 4K and full frame photos in RAW with a choice of 2 lenses: 70-200mm, and 18-22mm wide angle lens.

David's main device for viewing a map of where we were going whilst driving was obviously the headunit. The map screen was running any time the vehicle was running. This device was also the master tracking device so Tracker was enabled in Traveller (this is the Member's feature where the tracking data is backed up externally via auto syncing to the server).

On the 2 Android phones, we have both the Traveller and Tracker apps installed. On one of the devices we changed the default settings in "Tracker Settings when Enabled" to be "Stop on Close" - to OFF and "Start on Boot" - to ON. This means tracking is running all the time. See pic below for the setup of this:-

The 2 iPads and the 2 Android phones were used interchangeably for trip planning and POI data updates - ie. editing public Places and creating new Places as required. On all devices we used the same ExplorOz user account login. This ensured that data in Places, Treks and Folders were consistent across all devices.

The range of tasks on the trip included:
  • Verify the existence/status of every side track/road leading off the road we were on. This was done by comparing what was shown on EOTopo 2021 with what was seen on the ground. Variations were documented in the Traveller app using the pin drop to create a Personal Place on the road with a POI marker, name, and description. That Place was then added to a Folder called "Map Updates'.
  • Verifying the existence and features of every POI along the route we were travelling. This would involve deleting, creating, or moving Places, fixing any text errors in name or description, adding a comment on every site visited/seen, and adding photos on every site visited/seen. We did this whether we were online or offline.
  • Noting app usability in different scenarios and considering possible improvements.
  • Programming and testing alpha version updates; publishing store release version updates.
  • Maintaining customer support (via Help Desk and phone). Whilst we were somewhat remote, I could get internet periodically as we passed through towns along the way so was able to check the Help Desk and send responses, however the phone support was far more complicated - we had diverted the office phone line to the 2nd SIM on my phone as usual (to separate personal calls from work) however we underestimated the capability of the "PennyTel" service (wholesale Telstra). Unfortunately, we discovered that when our Telstra SIMs had service, there was still no PennyTel service so we could not even access the voicemail to hear the messages as PennyTel coverage is not the same as Telstra and is useless for anywhere outside of capital cities. Unfortunately, due to the way I'd setup the call diversion on the office phone line I could not change the diversion remotely. Lesson learned on that one! Very sorry to anyone that was affected but we did put all the messages out that we were away and communications would be limited. Most people were fine about it but I did encounter a bit of negative feedback from one or two disgruntled people.
  • Photographing every POI and adding into content, as well as photographing content for marketing, maintaining social media presence on Instagram/Facebook
In terms of WHERE we travelled, this was actually quite an ad hoc decision as we could do this work anywhere so we were loosely guided by weather/season and where we'd previously been and not, and looking for opportunities to verify any existing ExplorOz Treks or Places. What we found was so much more mining activity in WA than we have encountered previously. There were tracks where drill samples were lined up on both sides of the road in areas that stretched for miles. These areas were often unexpectedly seen in areas where there were Places for historic sites, or old bores. Some days were very hard, tiring and even boring or frustrating but we do remind ourselves that after all it's not a bad day in the "office".

Over the coming months I will do a series of destination blogs covering some of the highlights we encountered such as:After an initial hiccup with our trip start on day 1 just 30km from home when the fuel pump failed and we ran out of fuel with half a tank (!) necessitating a return to home for repairs (David fixed it in 3 days for a cost of $35) we were then lucky to have only suffered very minimal equipment failures/mechanicals:-
  • flat tyres on the MTBs
  • lost a trailer chain shackle on the Kidson
  • broke 2 antennas and finally the aerial base
  • snapped the weld off the driver's side rear shock on the 200 series (bought a replacement in Alice Springs and fitted at camp)
  • steering dampner vibrations... hmmm
  • both Android phones stopped accepting charge from the cable - paid $99 in Port Hedland to replace the charging system in one but still didn't work. Luckily the hi-charge MacBook charger on invertor would charge them so we had to learn how to share the one cable
  • bought a new iPhone but dropped it 8 days later and it was unusable thereafter
  • crashed the drone and couldn't find it - lost forever
  • rescued a motorbike rider who had a flat in the middle of a desert road but could not repair it - and had waited overnight flagging down passing travellers to no avail. We gave him our inner tube sealant we'd used to repair our MTB flat tyres
So, please stand by for the beginning of a series of blogs covering this epic trip, which will cover the details together with YouTube video clips, drone photography and scenic photography.


David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Always working not enough travelling!
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