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NOAA Completes FVR-55 Shipboard Launch/Recovery Operations to Measure Atmospheric Aerosols and Fluxes needed to Improve Climate Model Simulations

Article and Figures Provided By: Kenneth Vierra (Science Technology Corporation/UxS Research Transition Office), Patricia Quinn (NOAA/PMEL), Janet Intrieri (NOAA/PSL)

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During the month of March 2022, the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and Physical Sciences (PSL) Laboratories used a newly developed uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) to better understand the chemical and physical characteristics of the atmosphere. The suite of sensors used in these demonstrations will improve climate and weather models by providing unique information about the atmosphere.

In partnership with L3Harris Technologies, an American technology company, NOAA has used the newly developed FVR-55 (Fixed Wing Vertical Takeoff and Landing Rotator) UAS to conduct shipboard launch and recovery operations for collecting atmospheric data with the NOAA “Clear Sky,” “Cloudy Sky,” and “miniFlux'' scientific payloads. Development of this innovative technology was initially funded through a NOAA Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award in 2016, followed by a Phase II SBIR award and follow-on contract for the continued development of the UAS. Continued development and operations were funded and logistically supported by both the OAR Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (UxSRTO) and the OMAO UxS Operations Center (UxSOC). Participants from PMEL, PSL, UxSRTO, UxSOC, and L3Harris performed 11 fully autonomous ship-launching and landing flight operations (14.9 hours of total flight time) off Key West, FL to test and demonstrate the scientific payloads.

NOAA PSL and L3Harris Complete miniFlux Payload Integration and Flight Tests

Article Provided By: Kenneth Vierra (Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs/UxS Research Transition Office), Gijs de Boer (NOAA PSL/CIRES/CU) and Janet Intrieri (NOAA/PSL)

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With funding and logistical support from the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (UxSRTO), in addition to the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) Clear and Cloudy Sky payloads, the NOAA OAR Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL), together with partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing (IRISS) program at the University of Colorado Boulder developed the miniFlux sensor suite for operation on the L3Harris Latitude Fixed Wing Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Rotator (FVR-55).  miniFlux is a collection of complementary systems and sensors selected to provide robust and accurate measurements of atmospheric thermodynamic and kinematic states. miniFlux carries sensors to make redundant measurements of temperature, humidity, and pressure, in addition to nadir and zenith thermal IR temperatures and sensors to provide a three dimensional wind measurement. In combination, these measurements, combined with accurate inertial position and orientation measurements collected by the miniFlux system, enable for estimation of atmospheric energy transfer conditions.

On May 6, 2021 L3Harris and PSL successfully completed payload integration and flight testing at the Florence, AZ test flight area. The miniFlux was mounted on the wing of the FVR-55.

Final engineering checkout is planned with L3Harris Latitude FVR-55 and NOAA PMEL and PSL payloads on the Commercial 96' vessel TowBoatU.S. Richard L. Becker, this summer.  NOAA staff from UxSRTO, OMAO UxSOC, PMEL, and PSL will be on the boat as well as the UAS team from L3Harris.

Deployment and Operation of the RAAVEN small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) in Support of NOAA Science during ATOMIC

ARTICLE AND FIGURES PROVIDED BY GIJS DE BOER (ESRL/PSD/CIRES/CU) AND JANET INTRIERI (ESRL/PSD)

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Supported with UAS Program Office funding, a team from the University of Colorado Boulder will deploy the RAAVEN sUAS from Barbados between 19 January and 17 February 2020. Launch and retrieval will occur from the shore at a field and the adjacent beach in Morgan Lewis, Barbados RAAVEN miniFlux measurements can directly contribute to advancing our scientific understanding relevant to NOAA forecasting efforts across weather and climate scales. Specifically, information on the vertical distribution of dynamic (momentum) and thermodynamic fields (heat fluxes), spatial and temporal variation of PBL height, formation and maintenance of tropical clouds, and ABL stability can be used to evaluate boundary layer and cloud parameterizations. This to examine and better understand the physical processes supporting the organization of tropical clouds and to provide guidance on model physics development. Improving model physics is one of the major goals articulated in NOAA’s Unified Forecast System (UFS) Goals and Priorities document. 

Observing Atmospheric Fluxes with UAS (miniFlux)

Article and Figures Provided By: Gijs de Boer (ESRL/PSD/CIRES)

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Understanding the transfer of heat and momentum between different layers of the atmosphere and the underlying surface is critical for improving our weather and climate forecasts. Scientists at NOAA’s Physical Sciences Division (PSD) and the University of Colorado’s (CU) Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) are working to develop, test, calibrate and deploy the compact, lightweight (1.2 lbs) miniFlux sensor system (Figure 1). This miniaturized instrument, which is supported by NOAA’s UAS Program Office, can reliably collect these measurements from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  Deploying this lightweight package on UAS over difficult-to-sample regions of the Earth can provide perspectives on these important processes in ways not previously possible.

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