The School of GeoSciences has a small aircraft to examine the lower atmosphere and its interactions with the land surface. The aeroplane can make measurements of trace gas concentrations up to about 10,000 feet asl and take images of the Earth's surface. The School also operates numerous unmanned aircraft systems, workstations for data processing and offers calibrations services.
Airborne GeoSciences facility is a NERC Recognised Facility. This means that it is recognised by NERC as suitable for NERC funded scientists and that it is listed on the NERC Facilities webpages. NERC does not provide any funding for Recognised facilities.
The facility aims to support environmental and geoscientific research and teaching through the development, integration and application of advanced airborne sensing technologies deployed on both manned and unmanned aircraft.
Manned Aircraft Capabilities
The Airborne GeoSciences facility operates a manned Diamond HK36 TTC-ECO Dimona aircraft and a sophisticated suite of scientific instruments for studies of the lower atmosphere, its interactions with the land surface below and the processes that shape Earth’s surface.
The aircraft enables atmospheric measurements to be conducted up to 10,000 feet (or above) and production of images of the Earth’s surface using a range of very high quality sensors. It can also be used to directly measure the exchange of gases between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere while flying low above the ground, which is a vital tool in understanding the effect of natural processes on human emissions in the atmosphere (and vice versa). At time of writing thhe following systems are approved to be deployed on the aircraft:
- Meteorology (T, P, humidity, wind/turbulence)
- Atmospheric chemistry (Picarro G2301m and Licor 7500 gas analysers, bag/flask sampling)
- Hyperspectral imaging
- Ortho-photography (including Structure-From-Motion based elevation modelling and mapping)
- Laser altimetry
For internal administrative purposes the aircraft management and operations are considered to fall within the Light Aircraft (Research) Operations (LAR-OPS) section of the facility, while sensor management/development etc. is handled through the Airborne Sensor Lab (ASL) section (see below).
Our aircraft is of a type described as a self-launching motorglider and was made by Diamond Aircraft in Austria. Its type is an Eco Dimona MPX and the registration number for the aircraft is G-GEOS
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, RPAS)
Airborne GeoSciences also operates a fleet of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), currently >10 aircraft both multi-rotor and fixed wing, equipped with RGB and multi-spectral imaging and laser range-finding sensors.
For internal administrative purposes RPA fleet management, training and operations are considered to fall within the RPAS-OPS section of the facility, while sensor management/development etc. is handled through the Airborne Sensor Lab (ASL) section. Development of new RPAS platforms is undertaken under the RPAS Development Laboratory (RDL).
Dedicated workstations and software are provided for handling the often very large volumes of data produced by airborne platforms – in particular for image processing using structure-from-motion techniques and multi- and hyper-spectral processing. At time of writing two workstations are in use, with funding approved for two more due to be incorporated in early 2018. For administrative purposes these computational facilities are managed within the Airborne Data Laboratory (ADL) section of the facility.
Calibration and Evaluation Facilities
Alongside the airborne sensors the facility operates a range of calibration and testing equipment, in particular high-quality reference sensors for temperature, dewpoint and pressure, along with calibrated millivolt sources and a large temperature controlled chamber for environmental testing of equipment. Although used for aircraft systems this equipment is equally useful for any other field equipment and is available to users for wide-ranging applications. For internal administrative purposes this capability is manged under the Calibration-Evaluation Laboratory (CEL) section of the facility.