Simultaneous multicopter-based air sampling and sensing of meteorological variables
- 1Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
- 2Institute of Geography, University of Augsburg, 86159 Augsburg, Germany
Abstract. The state and composition of the lowest part of the planetary boundary layer (PBL), i.e., the atmospheric surface layer (SL), reflects the interactions of external forcing, land surface, vegetation, human influence and the atmosphere. Vertical profiles of atmospheric variables in the SL at high spatial (meters) and temporal (1 Hz and better) resolution increase our understanding of these interactions but are still challenging to measure appropriately. Traditional ground-based observations include towers that often cover only a few measurement heights at a fixed location. At the same time, most remote sensing techniques and aircraft measurements have limitations to achieve sufficient detail close to the ground (up to 50 m). Vertical and horizontal transects of the PBL can be complemented by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Our aim in this case study is to assess the use of a multicopter-type UAV for the spatial sampling of air and simultaneously the sensing of meteorological variables for the study of the surface exchange processes. To this end, a UAV was equipped with onboard air temperature and humidity sensors, while wind conditions were determined from the UAV's flight control sensors. Further, the UAV was used to systematically change the location of a sample inlet connected to a sample tube, allowing the observation of methane abundance using a ground-based analyzer. Vertical methane gradients of about 0.3 ppm were found during stable atmospheric conditions. Our results showed that both methane and meteorological conditions were in agreement with other observations at the site during the ScaleX-2015 campaign. The multicopter-type UAV was capable of simultaneous in situ sensing of meteorological state variables and sampling of air up to 50 m above the surface, which extended the vertical profile height of existing tower-based infrastructure by a factor of 5.