Recent advances in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) coupled with changes in the regulatory environment for operations of UAS in the National Airspace increase their potential value for atmospheric and climate research. As a result, the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility is expanding its use of UAS, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and tethered balloon systems (TBS).
The ArcticShark is a fixed-wing vehicle with a 22 ft (6.7 m) wingspan and a max gross weight of 650 lbs (300 kg). The payload configuration is flexible with multiple internal payload bays and four external hard-point wing stores. The manufacturer has rated the ArcticShark to fly altitudes up to 18,000 ft (5500 m) MSL for a flight duration of 8 hours (subject to payload configuration).
Previously deployed, the DataHawk IIs small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) were the first sUAS at the AAF and were built by the University of Colorado, Boulder. It weighed 3 lbs (1.3 kg) with a wingspan of 3 ft (1 m) and had a static payload measuring location, altitude, pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed, and surface temperature. The DataHawk IIs were flown from 2016 to 2018 before the AAF discontinued use. The data is discoverable at https://www.archive.arm.gov/discovery/ as aafdatahawkmet.
Tethered Balloon Systems (TBSs), like this one, have been conducting routine measurements within clouds at the third ARM Mobile Facility in Oliktok Point since 2015. The system has a payload capacity in excess of 100 pounds, and is being developed towards maximum autonomy in order to enable regular airborne data collection while operating safely in the extreme conditions present in the Arctic. The TBS is a baseline component of the ARM instrumentation at Oliktok Point and provides routine, repeated measurements that represent the inter-annual variability of conditions.
ARM is also beginning TBS activities at the Southern Great Plains site in 2019. At Southern Great Plains, the TBS will be operated below clouds to perform vertical profiling within the boundary layer and conduct sampling pre and post-convection. Guest instrumentation may be hosted on the TBS at both sites.