The urban boundary layer (UBL) is one of the most important and least understood atmospheric domains and, consequently, warrants deep understanding and rigorous analysis via sophisticated experimental and numerical tools. When field experiments have been undertaken, they have primarily been accomplished with either a coarse network of in-situ sensors or slow response sensors based on timing or Doppler shifts, resulting in low resolution and decreasing performance with height. Small unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) offer an opportunity to improve on traditional UBL observational strategies that may require substantive infrastructure or prove impractical in a vibrant city, prohibitively expensive, or coarse in resolution. Multirotor UASs are compact, have the ability to take-off and land vertically, hover for long periods of time, and maneuver easily in all three spatial dimensions, making them advantageous for probing an obstacle-laden environment. Fixed-wing UASs offer an opportunity to cover vast horizontal and vertical distances, at low altitudes, in a continuous manner with high spatial resolution. Hence, fixed-wing UASs are advantageous for observing the roughness sublayer above the highest building height where traditional manned aircraft cannot safely fly. This work presents a methodology for UBL investigations using meteorologically instrumented UASs and discusses lessons learned and best practices garnered from a proof of concept field campaign that focused on the urban canopy layer and roughness sublayer of a large modern city with a high-rise urban canopy.
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