Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Take To The Skies To Track Pollutants

Date:
April 18, 2006
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
A research consortium funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, has successfully sent a fleet of aerial drones through the pollution-filled skies over the Indian Ocean, thereby achieving an important milestone in the tracking of pollutants responsible for dimming Earth's atmosphere.

V. Ramanathan, chief scientist of the Maldives Campaign, accompanied by several autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles.
Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UCSD

A research consortium funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, has successfully sent a fleet of aerial drones through the pollution-filled skies over the Indian Ocean, thereby achieving an important milestone in the tracking of pollutants responsible for dimming Earth's atmosphere.

Related Articles


The instrument-bearing autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (AUAVs) completed 18 successful data-gathering missions in the vicinity of the Maldives, an island chain nation south of India, said Scripps scientist V. Ramanathan.

During the Maldives AUAV Campaign (MAC), groupings of three aircraft were flown in a vertical formation that allowed their onboard instruments to observe conditions below, inside and above clouds simultaneously. Researchers hope the data produced during the flights will reveal in unprecedented detail how pollution particles cause dimming and contribute to the formation of clouds which amplify the dimming caused by the pollution.

"MAC has demonstrated that lightweight AUAVs and their miniaturized instruments are an effective and inexpensive means of simultaneously sampling clouds in polluted environments from within and from all sides," said Jay Fein, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric Sciences, which funded MAC. "They will serve as critically important additions to our atmospheric measurement capability for one of the major issues in climate change science: How does pollution affect cloud microphysical and radiative processes in the context of weather and climate?"

Stacked flights with manned aircraft have been attempted, but rarely. The difficulty and cost of assembling and coordinating three similar aircraft have prevented the sort of repeated measurements required to sample clouds adequately. "Based on MAC's success it is possible that in five years, hundreds of lightweight AUAVs will be documenting how human beings are polluting the planet and hopefully provide an early warning system for potential environmental disasters in the future," said Ramanathan.

The skies over the Indian Ocean visibly bear the imprint of human activities in South Asia, frequently in what are termed atmospheric brown clouds, particulate-laden haze and cumulus clouds that frequently blanket the region. The role that dust and aerosols from industrial, urban and agricultural emissions play in creating this brown haze is an important variable to researchers who study climate change, espeically how human activities could be changing the planet's albedo, or reflectivity.

Cloud cover cools Earth's surface by reflecting solar radiation back into space. In recent years, researchers have realized that pollution in the atmosphere, and the dimming and cooling it causes, could be leading scientists to underestimate the true magnitude of global-warming trends observed in recent decades.

Ramanathan has led a consortium of academic and industrial partners in the development of aircraft and integrating them with miniaturized instruments that can obtain aerosol-cloud-solar radiation data in remote regions once considered unobtainable: multi-dimensional portraits of clouds created in polluted environments over periods of several hours.

The "Manta" AUAVs, constructed by Tucson, Ariz. firm Advanced Ceramics Research (ACR), represent a feat of miniaturization. Each AUAV bears an instrument package that weighs less than five kilograms (11 pounds). The packages developed by the team include sensors for measuring solar radiation, cloud-drop size and concentrations, particle size and concentrations, turbulence, humidities and temperatures.

Flights took place between March 6 and March 31, 2006, taking off from an airport on the island of Hanimaadhoo in the Maldives. Each AUAV tracked a separate component of brown cloud formation. The lowest, flying beneath the cloud, quantified the input of pollution particles and measured quantities of light that penetrated the clouds.

The aircraft flying through the cloud measured the cloud's response to the introduction of particles. The aircraft flying above the cloud measured the amount of sunlight reflected by the clouds into space and the export of particles out of the clouds.

"We're excited about being involved in the study of atmospheric brown clouds using cutting edge flight control software developed in our unmanned aerial vehicles," said Anthony Mulligan, CEO of Advanced Ceramics Research. "We're have provided scientists with a way to further their research, and look forward to providing a low-cost, effective way to gather additional information."

In addition to NSF, the research was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation and the Alderson Foundation. The research was also supported by the United Nations Environmental Program and the Republic of Maldives.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Take To The Skies To Track Pollutants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060418004650.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2006, April 18). Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Take To The Skies To Track Pollutants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060418004650.htm
National Science Foundation. "Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Take To The Skies To Track Pollutants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060418004650.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Buffalo Residents Digging Out, Helping out

Raw: Buffalo Residents Digging Out, Helping out

AP (Nov. 22, 2014) Hundreds of volunteers joined a 'shovel brigade' in Buffalo, New York on Saturday, as the city was living up to its nickname, "The City of Good Neighbors." Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins