7.1 The Helicopter Observation Platform (HOP) of the University of Miami and its Application for the Characterization of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 3:30 PM
Room 350/351 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Roni Avissar, Univ. of Miami/RSMAS, Miami, FL; and K. Broad, R. L. Walko, and W. M. Drennan

The University of Miami has acquired a commercial helicopter (Airbus H125) that was transformed into a one-of-a-kind Helicopter Observation Platform (HOP) and fills critical gaps in physical, chemical and biological observations of the environment. This new research tool is designed to carry environmental sensors and instrument inlets in the undisturbed air in front of the aircraft at low airspeed and at various altitudes, from a few feet above the Earth's surface (where much of the climate and weather “action” takes place, and where we live) and up through the atmospheric boundary layer and the mid troposphere. The HOP, with its hovering capability, is also ideal for conducting various types of remote-sensing observations. It provides a unique and essential component of airborne measurement whose purpose, among others, is to quantify the exchanges of gases and energy at the Earth surface, as well as aerosol properties that affect the environment, the climate system, and human health. For its first scientific mission, a gyro-stabilized eddy-correlation system is being mounted in front of its nose for high-frequency measurements of turbulence variables relevant to atmospheric boundary layer studies.

Fully fueled and with both pilot and co-pilot on board, the HOP can carry a scientific payload of up to about 1,000 lbs internally (about 3,000 lbs externally) and fly for nearly 4 hours without refueling at an airspeed of 65 knots that is ideal for in-situ observations. Its fast cruising speed is about 140 knots and its range, at that speed, is about 350 nautical miles. This specific helicopter was chosen because of its flat floor design, which is particularly convenient for installing scientific payload and also because of its high-altitude capability (it is the only commercial helicopter that ever landed at the top of Mt Everest).

The HOP is available to the entire scientific community for any project that is feasible from a flight safety point of view and that fulfills the flight regulations of the country that it is flown in. It can be easily transported anywhere in the world and can also be operated from a properly equipped ship at sea for oceanographic research.

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