Using Remotely Piloted Aircraft System to Study the Evolution of the Boundary Layer Related to Fog Events

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:15 PM
Gregory C Roberts1,2, Grégoire Cayez1,3, Catherine Ronflé-Nadaud4, Marius Albrand1, Jean-Phillippe Dralet5, Géraud Momboisse1, Keri Nicoll6, Yann Seity1, Murat Bronz4, Gautier Hattenberger4, Michel Gorraz4 and Alexandre Bustico4, (1)CNRM-GAME, Toulouse Cedex 01, France, (2)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States, (3)Meteo France - ENM, École Nationale de Météorologie, Toulouse, France, (4)ENAC - École Nationale de l'Aviation Civile, Toulouse, France, (5)Meteo France - DSO, Toulouse, France, (6)University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
Over the past decade, the scientific community has embraced the use of RPAS (remotely piloted aircraft system) as a tool to improve observations of the Earth’s surface and atmospheric phenomena. The use of small RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) in atmospheric research has increased because of their relative low-cost, compact size and ease of operation. Small RPAS are especially adapted for observing the atmospheric boundary layer processes at high vertical and temporal resolution. To this end, CNRM, ENAC, and ENM have developed the VOLTIGE (Vecteurs d’Observation de La Troposphere pour l’Investigation et la Gestion de l’Environnement) program to study the life cycle of fog with multiple, small RPAS. The instrumented RPAS flights have successfully observed the evolution of the boundary layer and dissipation of fog events. In addition, vertical profiles from the RPAS have been compared with Météo France forecast models, and the results suggest that forecast models may be improved using high resolution and frequent in-situ measurements.

Within the VOLTIGE project, a flying-wing RPAS with four control surfaces was developed to separate elevator and aileron controls in order to reduce the pitch angle envelope and improve turbulence and albedo measurements. The result leads to a small RPAS with the capability of flying up to two hours with 150 grams of payload, while keeping the hand-launch capability as a constraint for regular atmospheric research missions. High frequency data logging has been integrated into the main autopilot in order to synchronize navigation and payload measurements, as well as allowing an efficient sensor-based navigation.

The VOLTIGE program also encourages direct participation of students on the advancement of novel observing systems for atmospheric sciences, and provides a step towards deploying small RPAS in an operational network.

VOLTIGE is funded by the Agence Nationale de Recherche (ANR-Blanc 2012) and supported by Aerospace Valley.