Uncrewed Aircraft to Measure the Boundary Layer
The advent of small, uncrewed aircraft systems (sUAS) for atmospheric research offers opportunities to make unique meteorological measurements in the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. ARL’s ATD Division in Oak Ridge, TN uses sUAS to measure how temperature and relative humidity change with altitude, map the temperature and reflectivity characteristics of the Earth’s surface, and perform storm damage assessment in a never-before-available way that is faster, cheaper, and safer than using manned aircraft.
ARL’s Fleet of Aircraft
ARL currently has four sUAS that it flies on a regular basis, including three multi-rotor copters and one fixed-wing aircraft. The primary purpose of two of the multi-rotor aircraft (a DJI S-1000 and a Meteomatics Meteodrone SSE ) is to make measurements of temperature, relative humidity, and winds (Meteodrone only) as a function of altitude above the Earth’s surface. The third multi-rotor (a Microdrone MD4-1000 ) carries a LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) system to make high-resolution 3-D measurements of the Earth’s surface. The fixed-wing aircraft, a BlackSwift Technologies S2 has a payload module to make images of the Earth’s surface in multiple wavelengths to look at incoming and reflected solar radiation, as well as to measure in-situ air temperature and relative humidity. ARL acquired a second BST S2 with a different payload module to make in-situ measurements of 3-D atmospheric turbulence and flux measurements of CO2 and CH4.