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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  04 Aug 2020

04 Aug 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Development of a small unmanned aircraft system to derive CO2 emissions of anthropogenic point sources

Maximilian Reuter1, Heinrich Bovensmann1, Michael Buchwitz1, Jakob Borchardt1, Sven Krautwurst1, Konstantin Gerilowski1, Matthias Lindauer2, Dagmar Kubistin2, and John P. Burrows1 Maximilian Reuter et al.
  • 1University of Bremen, Institute of Environmental Physics, Bremen, Germany
  • 2Deutscher Wetterdienst, Meteorologisches Observatorium Hohenpeißenberg, Hohenpeißenberg, Germany

Abstract. A reduction of the anthropogenic emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide) is necessary to stop or slow down man-made climate change. To verify mitigation strategies, a global monitoring system such as the envisaged European Copernicus anthropogenic CO2 monitoring mission (CO2M) is required. Those satellite data are going to be complemented and validated with airborne measurements. UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) based measurements can provide a cost-effective way to contribute to this activities. Here we present the development of a sUAS (small unmanned aircraft system) to quantify the CO2 emissions of a nearby point source from its downwind mass flux without the need for any ancillary data. Specifically, CO2 is measured by a NDIR (non-dispersive infrared) detector and the wind speed and direction is measured with a 2D ultrasonic acoustic resonance anemometer. By means of laboratory measurements and an in-flight validation at the ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System) atmospheric station Steinkimmen (STE) near Bremen, Germany, we estimate that the individual CO2 measurements have a precision of 3 ppm and that CO2 enhancements can be determined with an accuracy of 1.3 % or 0.9 ppm, whichever is larger. We introduce an anemometer calibration method to minimize the effect of rotor downwash on the wind measurements. This method derives the fit parameters of a linear calibration model accounting for scaling, rotation, and a potential constant bias. For this purpose it analyzes wind measurements taken while following a suitable flight pattern and assuming stationary wind conditions. From the calibration and validation experiments, we estimate the single measurement precision of the horizontal wind speed to be 0.40 m s−1 and the accuracy to be 0.33 m s−1. By means of two flights downwind of the ExxonMobil natural gas processing facility in Großenkneten about 40 km east of Bremen, Germany, we demonstrate how the measurements of elevated CO2 concentrations can be used to infer mass fluxes of atmospheric CO2 related to the emissions of the facility.

Maximilian Reuter et al.

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Maximilian Reuter et al.

Maximilian Reuter et al.


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Latest update: 21 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
CO2 measurements from small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) can provide a cost-effective way to complement and validate satellite based measurements of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. We introduce a sUAS which is capable to determine atmospheric CO2 mass fluxes from its own sensor data. We show results of validation flights at the ICOS atmospheric station Steinkimmen and from demonstration flights downwind a CO2 emitting natural gas processing facility.
CO2 measurements from small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) can provide a cost-effective way to...