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Intercomparison of Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) Measurements for Atmospheric Science during the LAPSE-RATE Campaign

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Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and Gund Insitute for Environment, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
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Geophysical Institute and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, University of Bergen, Postbox 7803, 5020 Bergen, Norway
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Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506, USA
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School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
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Unmanned Systems Research Institute and School of Aerospace Engineering, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
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Finnish Meteorological Institute, Erik Palménin aukio 1, P.O. Box 503, FIN-00100 Helsinki, Finland
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School of Meteorology, Advanced Radar Research Center, and Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73071, USA
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Department of Computer Science, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
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Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588, USA
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Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
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Black Swift Technologies, Boulder, CO 80301, USA
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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
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Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
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Department of Chemistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506, USA
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Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Bessey Hall 126, Lincoln, NE 68588, USA
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Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588, USA
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Department of Physics, Kansas State University, 1228 N. 17th St., Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
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Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
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Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA
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School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
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NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072, USA
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Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing Program, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
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Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
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NOAA Physical Sciences Division, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Sensors 2019, 19(9), 2179; https://doi.org/10.3390/s19092179
Received: 28 February 2019 / Revised: 16 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 10 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Atmospheric Science)
Small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) are rapidly transforming atmospheric research. With the advancement of the development and application of these systems, improving knowledge of best practices for accurate measurement is critical for achieving scientific goals. We present results from an intercomparison of atmospheric measurement data from the Lower Atmospheric Process Studies at Elevation—a Remotely piloted Aircraft Team Experiment (LAPSE-RATE) field campaign. We evaluate a total of 38 individual sUAS with 23 unique sensor and platform configurations using a meteorological tower for reference measurements. We assess precision, bias, and time response of sUAS measurements of temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed, and wind direction. Most sUAS measurements show broad agreement with the reference, particularly temperature and wind speed, with mean value differences of 1.6 ± 2.6 C and 0.22 ± 0.59 m/s for all sUAS, respectively. sUAS platform and sensor configurations were found to contribute significantly to measurement accuracy. Sensor configurations, which included proper aspiration and radiation shielding of sensors, were found to provide the most accurate thermodynamic measurements (temperature and relative humidity), whereas sonic anemometers on multirotor platforms provided the most accurate wind measurements (horizontal speed and direction). We contribute both a characterization and assessment of sUAS for measuring atmospheric parameters, and identify important challenges and opportunities for improving scientific measurements with sUAS. View Full-Text
Keywords: sUAS; unmanned aircraft systems; unmanned aerial vehicles; UAV; sensor intercomparison; atmospheric measurements sUAS; unmanned aircraft systems; unmanned aerial vehicles; UAV; sensor intercomparison; atmospheric measurements
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Barbieri, L.; Kral, S.T.; Bailey, S.C.C.; Frazier, A.E.; Jacob, J.D.; Reuder, J.; Brus, D.; Chilson, P.B.; Crick, C.; Detweiler, C.; Doddi, A.; Elston, J.; Foroutan, H.; González-Rocha, J.; Greene, B.R.; Guzman, M.I.; Houston, A.L.; Islam, A.; Kemppinen, O.; Lawrence, D.; Pillar-Little, E.A.; Ross, S.D.; Sama, M.P.; Schmale, D.G.; Schuyler, T.J.; Shankar, A.; Smith, S.W.; Waugh, S.; Dixon, C.; Borenstein, S.; de Boer, G. Intercomparison of Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) Measurements for Atmospheric Science during the LAPSE-RATE Campaign. Sensors 2019, 19, 2179.

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