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As scientists engi“To have an aircraft program provide such spectrum of airborne devices will neer smaller instrua pivotal contribution at the crux of what technical allow us to explore mentation, the range the world is trying to understand,” Fahey things in a way that of research aircraft we haven’t explored CIRES uses could said, “that was a big prize for before,” Fahey said. extend from NOAA’s aircraft missions.” Fahey sees drones Global Hawk— addressing a basic a 25,000-pound problem facing atmospheric scientists: the difficulty in airplane that can carry 1,000 pounds to unmanned obtaining enough measurements over time to adequatedrones that fit in the palm of a hand. “That whole ly characterize the atmosphere—termed the “undersampling” problem. “We would benefit as an atmospheric science community to have more high-quality data from the atmosphere,” Fahey said. “We have an appetite for that data, but we don’t have a path right now to get to that point.” Drones may be part of that path, Fahey believes. The cost savings of such unmanned aircraft can immediately be turned back into “Let’s fly some more,” he said. But while drones might help scientists to gather more of the same type of information, hopefully solving the undersampling problem, they could also enable scientists to measure an entirely different type of data, he said. “What about flying along with an air parcel for a week or month and making continuous measurements?” Fahey said, momentarily appearing lost in the land of Above: The control room of the Global Hawk at the NASA possibility. Dryden Flight Research Center in California. The aircraft is operated from the front row of seats and the payload from Seems like the evolution of aircraft might free imaginathe back two rows. Bottom: Global Hawk AV-6 aircraft used tions—as well as planes—to soar. in its first Earth science flights in 2010.

NOAA’s Global Hawk drone

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Photo courtesy of NOAA U.S. Coast Guard

Spheres: 45th Anniversary Edition  

A periodic magazine covering the broad range of research done at the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Sciences at the University of C...

Spheres: 45th Anniversary Edition  

A periodic magazine covering the broad range of research done at the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Sciences at the University of C...

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