UAS as a support for atmospheric aerosols research

Michał T. Chilinski, K. M. Markowicz, M. Kubicki

Pure and Applied Geophysics


Small drones (multi-copters) have the potential to deliver valuable data for atmospheric research. They are especially useful for collecting vertical profiles of optical and microphysical properties of atmospheric aerosols. Miniaturization of sensors, such as aethalometers and particle counters, allows for collecting profiles of black carbon concentration, absorption coefficient, and particle size distribution. Vertical variability of single-scattering properties has a significant impact on radiative transfer and Earth’s climate, but the base of global measurements is very limited. This results in high uncertainties of climate/radiation models. Vertical range of modern multi-copters is up to 2000 m, which is usually enough to study aerosols up to the top of planetary boundary layer on middle latitudes. In this study, we present the benefits coming from usage of small drones in atmospheric research. The experiment, described as a case study, was conducted at two stations (Swider and Warsaw) in Poland, from October 2014 to March 2015. For over 6 months, photoacoustic extinctiometers collected data at both stations. This enabled us to compare the stations and to establish ground reference of black carbon concentrations for vertical profiles collected by ceilometer and drone. At Swider station, we used Vaisala CL-31 ceilometer. It delivered vertical profiles of range corrected signal, which were analysed together with profiles acquired by micro-aethalometer AE-51 and Vaisala RS92-SGP radiosonde carried by a hexacopter drone. Near to the surface, black carbon gradient of \(\approx\) 400 ( \(\upmu\) g/m \(^3\) )/100 m was detected, which was below the ceilometer minimal altitude of detection. This confirmed the usefulness of drones and potential of their support for remote sensing techniques.