On-flight intercomparison of three miniature aerosol absorption sensors using unmanned aerial systems (UASs)
The present study investigates and compares the ground and in-flight performance of three miniaturized aerosol absorption sensors integrated on board small-sized Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs). These sensors were evaluated during two contrasted field campaigns performed at an urban site, impacted mainly by local traffic and domestic wood burning sources (Athens, Greece), and at a remote regional background site, impacted by long-range transported sources including dust (Cyprus Atmospheric Observatory, Agia Marina Xyliatou, Cyprus). The miniaturized sensors were first intercompared at the ground-level against two commercially available instruments used as a reference. The measured signal of the miniaturized sensors was converted into the absorption coefficient and equivalent black carbon concentration (eBC). When applicable, signal saturation corrections were applied, following the suggestions of the manufacturers. The aerosol absorption sensors exhibited similar behavior against the reference instruments during the two campaigns, despite the diversity of the aerosol origin, chemical composition, sources, and concentration levels. The deviation from the reference during both campaigns concerning (eBC) mass was less than 8 %, while for the absorption coefficient it was at least 15 %. This indicates that those sensors that report black carbon mass are tuned and corrected to measure eBC more accurately than the absorption coefficient. The overall potential use of miniature aerosol absorption sensors on board small UASs is also illustrated. UAS-based absorption measurements were used to investigate the vertical distribution of eBC over Athens up to 1 km above sea level during January 2016, exceeding the top of the planetary boundary layer (PBL). Our results reveal a heterogeneous boundary layer concentration of absorbing aerosol within the PBL intensified in the early morning hours due to the concurrent peak traffic emissions at ground-level and the fast development of the boundary layer. After the full development of the PBL, homogenous concentrations are observed from 100 m a.g.l. to the PBL top.