12 Development of an Autonomous Multi-Rotor Copter for Probing the Atmospheric Boundary Layer

Tuesday, 10 June 2014
Salon C (Denver Marriott Westminster)
Stephan F. J. De Wekker, Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; and D. Chestnut, G. Lewin, I. Deboisblanc, N. Dodbele, L. Kussmann, R. Mukherji, and S. Phelps

Recent advancements in sensor technology and open-source electronics are allowing the low-cost development of unmanned aerial systems for studying atmospheric structure and dynamics. While previous emphasis has been on the development of fixed wing unmanned aircraft for atmospheric investigations, the use of multi-rotor copters is unexplored. In this presentation, we will demonstrate the potential of these multi-rotor copters for investigating boundary layer structure and flow dynamics in an area of complex terrain. First results will be shown of a field experiment in which a hexa-copter measured vertical profiles of temperature, humidity, and winds in the lowest part of the atmospheric boundary layer autonomously. Various methods and challenges to collecting wind data from the copter will be discussed. We will also show comparisons of the hexa-copter measurements with measurements from state-of-the-art meteorological instruments installed on a 10-m tower and an instrumented tethered balloon.
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