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Nighttime Fire Observations eXperiment (NightFOX) Update

ARTICLE / FIGURES PROVIDED BY: DR. RU-SHAN GAO (EARTH SYSTEM RESEARCH LABORATORY / CHEMICAL SCIENCES DIVISION)

Kenneth Vierra 0 1337 Article rating: No rating

Biomass burning produces major impacts on local and regional air quality and potentially plays an interactive role in climate change. A capable small, fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) can serve as an ideal platform for measurements of biomass burning emissions, plume distribution, fire extent and perimeter, and supporting meteorological data, especially at night when manned aircraft typically do not operate. The NOAA UASPO-funded Nighttime Fire Observations eXperiment (NightFOX) project aims to develop and deploy a sUAS observation system utilizing two modular and easily exchangeable payloads. One payload will provide in situ measurements of CO2, CO and fine- and coarse-mode aerosol size distributions in biomass burning plumes for characterization of fire combustion efficiency and emissions. A filter sampler will collect bulk aerosol samples for off-line composition analysis. The second payload will be flown over the fire to make remote sensing measurements of fire perimeter and fire radiative power using visible and short-, mid-, and long-wavelength IR observations. The multi-spectral remote sensing data will be used to provide sub-pixel information for comparison with satellite fire observations, and along with measured meteorological parameters, will be used to inform, test, and improve the WRF-SFIRE fire-atmosphere model.

On 31 July 2019, the NightFOX remote sensing payload onboard a Black Swift Technologies S2 UAS was used to monitor a prescribed burn in Boulder County, CO. The experiment was very successful, producing a fire map and demonstrating the capability and usefulness of the system (see associated figures and video). For the next step we plan to deploy the system to make measurements over real wildfires in the western US in August and September 2019.

This project is funded by the NOAA UAS Program Office, and includes a partnership between NOAA ESRL/CSD and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Operational Evaluation of Planck Aerosystems "Shearwater" Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) in the Santa Barbara Channel July 29 - 31, 2019

ARTICLE PROVIDED BY: TODD JACOBS; PHOTOS BY: LTJG NICOLE CHAPPELLE, VIDEO BY: TODD JACOBS

Kenneth Vierra 0 870 Article rating: 1.5

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary CINMS) / Collaborative Center for Unmanned Technologies (CCUT) staff supported the field testing of a Planck Aerosystems "Shearwater" sUAS aboard the NOAA Research Vessel Shearwater (Figure: 1) and the salvage vessel Danny C (Figure: 2). in the Santa Barbara Channel July 29 - 31, 2019. The project was funded by the NOAA OAR UAS Program Office. In participation were LTJG Nicole Chappelle from the NOAA OMAO Aircraft Operations Center Co-PI Alan Jaeger from the US Navy and project PI Todd Jacobs of ONMS CCUT.  The goals of the project are to evaluate the Shearwater UAS's capabilities to safely and reliably take off and land autonomously from moving vessels and to be operated in a tethered mode, where it can stay in the air for extended periods. The Shearwater UAS was able to successfully take off and land autonomously in relative wind up to 21 knots and from the R/V Shearwater at speeds up to 18 knots. The tethered mode was also successfully demonstrated, but at lower wind speeds.

The autonomous take-off and landing capability is thought to reduce risk and will require less operator proficiency when operating from boats. The tethered mode may eventually support incidents such as whale disentanglements and could serve as a data or communications relay during oil spills or other emergency operations.

The next phase of the project is to support NMFS and NOS by providing aerial imagery to manta ray tagging teams ~100 miles offshore at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary from August 5 - 8, 2019.

A third phase of testing and Shearwater UAS operator training is planned for December 16 - 20 to be conducted in concert with the annual whale disentanglement training in Maui, HI, which will be hosted by project co-PI Ed Lyman at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

These evaluations will be reviewed by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS),  (CCUT) and OAR UASPO and will be used to determine whether one or more Planck Aerosystems "Shearwater" UAS will be purchased by the agency and transitioned to routine operations.

High Accuracy Trace Gas Measurements from a Lightweight UAV

Article/Figure Provided By: Colm Sweeney and Pieter Tans

Kenneth Vierra 0 1030 Article rating: No rating

Recently, numerous studies have contested the global impact of fugitive emissions from oil and gas operations on the methane budget.  Consequently, precise quantification of gas leaks is needed to better constrain the total methane burden from this source.  In the past, high precision insitu analyzers mounted in a research aircraft have been used to circle the suspected leak and quantify the plume.  While this is a robust method, it is costly, and missions cannot be deployed quickly.  Quick deployment is needed because leaks can be transient, variable, and a huge safety hazard.  A lightweight UAV is uniquely suited to both fly through a plume generated by a leak, and deploy quickly at little cost. However, the UAV platform is too small to carry the 70-pound analysis system used on a plane.

NOAA GMD has developed a unique sampling system, called the Active AirCore, in which a pump compresses air into a 100-meter long, small diameter tube at a constant flow rate. This long tube acts as an “atmospheric tape recorder” by storing the sample stream in the long tube. When the sample is analyzed, the data is a “play back” of the air the UAV flew through while in flight.  The sampler can be removed from the UAV, and immediately analyzed using an ultra-high precision trace gas analyzer like those used on aircraft.  This new sampling system provides the same level of accuracy as an analyzer mounted on a larger aircraft, but is light enough to be flown on a UAV.  Because the measurements are done in a van at the flight location, data analysis and quantification of the leak is near-real time.  This near-real-time analysis allows highly flammable natural gas leaks to be quickly identified and quantified providing information that will help evaluate the safety and potential economic losses at an individual oil and gas production site.

Nighttime Fire Observations eXperiment (NightFOX)

ARTICLE/FIGURE PROVIDED BY: RUSHAN GAO AND TROY THORNBERRY (OAR/ESRL/CSD)

Kenneth Vierra 0 1189 Article rating: 4.0

Biomass burning produces major impacts on local and regional air quality which potentially plays an interactive role in climate change. A capable small, fixed-wing unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) can serve as an ideal platform for measurements of biomass burning emissions, plume distribution, fire extent and perimeter, and supporting meteorological data, especially at night when manned aircraft typically do not operate. The NOAA UASPO-funded Nighttime Fire Observations eXperiment (NightFOX) project aims to develop and deploy a sUAS observation system utilizing two modular and easily exchangeable payloads. One payload will provide in situ measurements of CO2, CO and fine- and coarse-mode aerosol size distributions in biomass burning plumes for characterization of fire combustion efficiency and emissions. A filter sampler will collect bulk aerosol samples for off-line composition analysis. The second payload will be flown over the fire to make remote sensing measurements of fire perimeter and fire radiative power using visible and short-, mid-, and long-wavelength IR observations. The multi-spectral remote sensing data will be used to provide sub-pixel information for comparison with satellite fire observations, and along with measured meteorological parameters, will be used to inform, test, and improve the WRF-SFIRE fire-atmosphere model.

Prototype in-situ and remote-sensing instrument payloads have been developed and are operational. Initial test flights with the payloads have recently been conducted. The performance of the prototype payloads has proven satisfactory and new versions are currently under development that will be used for the NIghtFOX operational deployment to study western wildfires next summer during the NOAA/NASA FIREX-AQ mission. Preliminary data processing algorithms for the remote sensing observations have been developed based on test flight results. A nighttime high-altitude FAA COA was obtained and a nighttime flight to an altitude of 2000 ft (0.61 km) was conducted on November 08, 2018, as a stepping stone to the 1 km design altitude for remote sensing operations.

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