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Coordinated Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and Ground-Based Weather Measurements to Predict Lagrangian Coherent Structures (LCSs)

Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506, USA
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80132, USA
UAS Colorado, PO Box 1824, Monument, CO 80132, USA
Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80132, USA
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sensors 2018, 18(12), 4448;
Received: 31 October 2018 / Revised: 27 November 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2018 / Published: 15 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Atmospheric Science)
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Concentrations of airborne chemical and biological agents from a hazardous release are not spread uniformly. Instead, there are regions of higher concentration, in part due to local atmospheric flow conditions which can attract agents. We equipped a ground station and two rotary-wing unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) with ultrasonic anemometers. Flights reported here were conducted 10 to 15 m above ground level (AGL) at the Leach Airfield in the San Luis Valley, Colorado as part of the Lower Atmospheric Process Studies at Elevation—a Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Team Experiment (LAPSE-RATE) campaign in 2018. The ultrasonic anemometers were used to collect simultaneous measurements of wind speed, wind direction, and temperature in a fixed triangle pattern; each sensor was located at one apex of a triangle with ∼100 to 200 m on each side, depending on the experiment. A WRF-LES model was used to determine the wind field across the sampling domain. Data from the ground-based sensors and the two UASs were used to detect attracting regions (also known as Lagrangian Coherent Structures, or LCSs), which have the potential to transport high concentrations of agents. This unique framework for detection of high concentration regions is based on estimates of the horizontal wind gradient tensor. To our knowledge, our work represents the first direct measurement of an LCS indicator in the atmosphere using a team of sensors. Our ultimate goal is to use environmental data from swarms of sensors to drive transport models of hazardous agents that can lead to real-time proper decisions regarding rapid emergency responses. The integration of real-time data from unmanned assets, advanced mathematical techniques for transport analysis, and predictive models can help assist in emergency response decisions in the future.
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Keywords: Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS); Lagrangian Coherent Structure (LCS); Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS); Lagrangian Coherent Structure (LCS); Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF)

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Nolan, P.J.; Pinto, J.; González-Rocha, J.; Jensen, A.; Vezzi, C.N.; Bailey, S.C.C.; De Boer, G.; Diehl, C.; Laurence, R., III; Powers, C.W.; Foroutan, H.; Ross, S.D.; Schmale, D.G., III. Coordinated Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and Ground-Based Weather Measurements to Predict Lagrangian Coherent Structures (LCSs). Sensors 2018, 18, 4448.

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