Two new multirotor uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) for glaciogenic cloud seeding and aerosol measurements within the CLOUDLAB project

Miller, Anna J.; Ramelli, Fabiola; Fuchs, Christopher; Omanovic, Nadja; Spirig, Robert; Zhang, Huiying; Lohmann, Ulrike; Kanji, Zamin A.; Henneberger, Jan

Uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become widely used in a range of atmospheric science research applications. Because of their small size, flexible range of motion, adaptability, and low cost, multirotor UAVs are especially well-suited for probing the lower atmosphere. However, their use so far has been limited to conditions outside of clouds, first because of the difficulty of flying beyond visual line of sight and second because of the challenge of flying in icing conditions in supercooled clouds. Here, we present two UAVs for cloud microphysical research: one UAV (the measurement UAV) equipped with a Portable Optical Particle Spectrometer (POPS) and meteorological sensors to probe the aerosol and meteorological properties in the boundary layer and one UAV (the seeding UAV) equipped with seeding flares to produce a plume of particles that can nucleate ice in supercooled clouds. A propeller heating mechanism on both UAVs allows for operating in supercooled clouds with icing conditions. These UAVs are an integral part of the CLOUDLAB project in which glaciogenic cloud seeding of supercooled low stratus clouds is utilized for studying aerosol–cloud interactions and ice crystal formation and growth.

In this paper, we first show validations of the POPS on board the measurement UAV, demonstrating that the rotor turbulence has a small effect on measured particle number concentrations. We then exemplify the applicability for profiling the planetary boundary layer, as well as for sampling and characterizing aerosol plumes, in this case, the seeding plume. We also present a new method for filtering out high-concentration data to ensure good data quality of POPS. We explain the different flight patterns that are possible for both UAVs, namely horizontal or vertical leg patterns or hovering, with an extensive and flexible parameter space for designing the flight patterns according to our scientific goals. Finally, we show two examples of seeding experiments: first characterizing an out-of-cloud seeding plume with the measurement UAV flying horizontal transects through the plume and, second, characterizing an in-cloud seeding plume with downstream measurements from a POPS and a holographic imager mounted on a tethered balloon. Particle number concentrations and particle number size distributions of the seeding plume from the experiments reveal that we can successfully produce and measure the seeding plume, both in-cloud (with accompanying elevated ice crystal number concentrations) and out-of-cloud. The methods presented here will be useful for probing the lower atmosphere, for characterizing aerosol plumes, and for deepening our cloud microphysical understanding through cloud seeding experiments, all of which have the potential to benefit the atmospheric science community.



Miller, Anna J. / Ramelli, Fabiola / Fuchs, Christopher / et al: Two new multirotor uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) for glaciogenic cloud seeding and aerosol measurements within the CLOUDLAB project. 2024. Copernicus Publications.


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