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DOE arm program to use unmanned aerospacevehicles -- a first in climate research

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March 25, 1994 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. — Researchers in the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program will conduct an exciting, first-of-its-kind campaign in early April.

The ARM Program was created in 1989 to study the impacts of clouds on the atmospheric energy balance and to improve the reliability of the large- scale computer models used to predict climate change. Since 1992, the program has been collecting data through the use of ground-based remote sensing instruments.

During the first three weeks of April, ARM Program researchers will use an unmanned aerospace vehicle (UAV) to collect data over the program's Southern Great Plains central research facility in north-central Oklahoma. This is the first time such aircraft has been used in climate research. In fact, the UAV is still considered an emerging technology, and ARM's use of this research platform will push the technology further.

The facts and figures:


  • The researchers will fly a leased GNAT 750-45, manufactured by General Atomics of San Diego, California. It is a small, single- engine, rear propeller driven aircraft.
  • Gross weight is 1,200 pounds -- wingspan 35 feet.
  • The plane will carry 160 pounds of instrumentation, primarily five radiometers, to measure the radiant energy from the sun and the earth passing through the atmosphere at altitudes between 1,500- 22,000 feet--data that cannot be collected via ground-based instruments.
  • UAVs are used because of their ability to stay aloft at extreme altitudes for long periods.
  • For this initial campaign, a total of 30 hours flying time is planned over several flights.
  • Technical Director of the ARM-UAV Program is Dr. John Vitko of DOE's Sandia National Laboratories.
  • The first test flight will take place on, or around, April 5. Flights will originate from the airport at Tonkawa, Oklahoma, approximately 20 miles from the ARM site's Central Facility near Lamont, Oklahoma.


Tags: Energy, Environment, Fundamental Science, Climate Science

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