11th Symposium on Meteorological Observations and Instrumentation


Small Environmental Research Aircraft: The Future of Airborne Geoscience

Timothy L. Crawford, NOAA/ARL, Idaho Falls, ID; and G. H. Crescenti and J. M. Hacker

Many important environmental measurements are now possible from small, single-engine aircraft because of miniaturization and advances in instruments, computers, and aircraft over the past ten years. Examples of research applications include air-surface exchange, air quality, and remote sensing. We refer to this new high-technology mix of sophisticated aircraft design, with modern sensors and powerful computers as the Small Environmental Research Aircraft (SERA). The costs associated with using a SERA in a research study is typically one to two orders of magnitude less than that of a much larger multi-engine aircraft. This significant cost reduction and the associated simplification in logistical complexity allow SERA-based measurements to more widely available to scientific investigators with limited budgets. Since SERA's are based on simple aircraft which require minimal infrastructure, they can be easily maintained from any small, near-by airport. As a result, scientists will have easy access to the platform and can focus on the frequent instrument modification and testing required in this rapidly developing field.

Key to this change is the continuing miniaturization and evolution of electronics which has resulted in impressive improvements in both computers and sensors. Sensors have become microprocessor-based, resulting in miniaturization of both in situ and remote sensors. At the same time, advancement in miniature electronics and detectors has allowed important improvement in the number, range and accuracy of parameters which can be measured. Many sensors have evolved from the expensive developmental stage into routine use, where the process is sufficiently understood to allow reduction of cost to be the focus. The SERA will fill a strategic niche by exploiting the low cost and high utility of small aircraft which are ideal to carry the rapidly miniaturizing world-class in-situ and remote-sensor technology.

Session 5, Aircraft Platforms and Airborne Measurements
Tuesday, 16 January 2001, 8:00 AM-12:00 PM

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