Weather researchers are discovering the value of using drones in science. In a project to better understand the current climate problems, the BOREAL fixed-wing UAV, equipped with special sensors, was used to collect data from areas around Barbados.
The EUREC4A project (elucidation of the role of cloud-circulation coupling in the climate), jointly carried out by the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Hamburg (Germany) and the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD) in Paris brought more than 100 scientists from Europe and the US working to understand climate problems. “Understanding the effects of climate change on the tropical zone and especially at the trade wind cloud level is a major challenge. Indeed, it is important to identify changes in properties (even tiny ones) around these phenomena as they illustrate the imbalances in heat exchange that control climate, ”said a press release. More than 10 international climate laboratories with 5 oceanographic vessels, instrumented floats, land-based tools such as balloons and aerosols, meteorological research aircraft and drones – including the BOREAL long-range fixed wing – participated in the challenge.
Several drones were used during the project, whereby the BOREAL, in coordination with manned meteorological aircraft, had a long range (over 100 km) to “collect measurements of radiometry, aerosols, temperature, humidity and turbulence in the lower layers of the atmosphere”. Layers that are very close to the surface are little known because they are not adequately instrumented by scientists, although this is where the energy exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere takes place. Scientists lack data, however, as it is too dangerous for manned aircraft to fly only 10-50 meters above the surface.