Articles | Volume 7, issue 9
Research article
22 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 22 Sep 2014

An inverse-modelling approach for frequency response correction of capacitive humidity sensors in ABL research with small remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)

N. Wildmann, F. Kaufmann, and J. Bange

Abstract. The measurement of water vapour concentration in the atmosphere is an ongoing challenge in environmental research. Satisfactory solutions exist for ground-based meteorological stations and measurements of mean values. However, carrying out advanced research of thermodynamic processes aloft as well, above the surface layer and especially in the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL), requires the resolution of small-scale turbulence. Sophisticated optical instruments are used in airborne meteorology with manned aircraft to achieve the necessary fast-response measurements of the order of 10 Hz (e.g. LiCor 7500). Since these instruments are too large and heavy for the application on small remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), a method is presented in this study that enhances small capacitive humidity sensors to be able to resolve turbulent eddies of the order of 10 m. The sensor examined here is a polymer-based sensor of the type P14-Rapid, by the Swiss company Innovative Sensor Technologies (IST) AG, with a surface area of less than 10 mm2 and a negligible weight. A physical and dynamical model of this sensor is described and then inverted in order to restore original water vapour fluctuations from sensor measurements. Examples of flight measurements show how the method can be used to correct vertical profiles and resolve turbulence spectra up to about 3 Hz. At an airspeed of 25 m s−1 this corresponds to a spatial resolution of less than 10 m.