Articles | Volume 2, issue 1
06 May 2009
 | 06 May 2009

A new airborne tandem platform for collocated measurements of microphysical cloud and radiation properties

W. Frey, H. Eichler, M. de Reus, R. Maser, M. Wendisch, and S. Borrmann

Abstract. A new airborne tandem measurement platform for cloud-radiation interaction studies is introduced in this paper. It consists of a Learjet 35A research aircraft and the AIRcraft TOwed Sensor Shuttle (AIRTOSS), which is an instrumented drag-body towed by the Learjet. Currently, the AIRTOSS is instrumented with a Cloud Imaging Probe (CIP) for measuring cloud microphysical properties and an Inertial Navigation System (INS) for measurements of flight attitudes. The cable dragging AIRTOSS can be as long as four kilometres. Thus, truly collocated measurements in two altitudes above, in, and below clouds can be obtained. Results from first test flights with Learjet and AIRTOSS are reported here. The flights were performed from Hohn Airport, Germany. Specific manoeuvres were flown to test the aerodynamic behaviour of the drag-body and to investigate the suitability of AIRTOSS for high-precision irradiance measurements which require a stable flight attitude of AIRTOSS. The flight attitude data show that AIRTOSS is sensitive to several flight manoeuvres such as turns, altitude and airspeed changes, and also to changes of towing cable length. The effects of these manoeuvres on the attitude angles of AIRTOSS have been quantified. Maximum roll angle deviations were observed during turns. Even small changes in heading can lead to high roll angles (one degree change in heading causes a change in roll angle of about eight degrees). The pitch angle varies during climb or dive periods, extending or retracting of towing cable, acceleration or deceleration, and even when flying at too low or too high true airspeed depending on altitude. Values of pitch angle between −5° (dive) and 8° (climb and retracting towing cable) have been observed. While change in attitude is not problematic for cloud particle property measurements it is for radiation measurements. Here, the deviation from the horizontal should be no more than 3° to avoid large errors. When keeping the above mentioned flight parameters constant, sufficiently stable flight conditions can be maintained to perform high-quality irradiance measurements with AIRTOSS in future experiments. During this test campaign also observations of cloud microphysical data as for example droplet number concentrations and size distributions with the AIRTOSS in stratocumulus clouds were performed to prove the compliance with scientific needs. Simultaneous spectral cloud radiation measurements have been made. The measurements of internal operational data of AIRTOSS as well as the first atmospheric data demonstrate the suitability of this tandem platform for detailed cloud microphysics and radiation interaction studies.