The use of ship-launched fixed-wing UAVs for measuring the marine atmospheric boundary layer and ocean surface processes

TitleThe use of ship-launched fixed-wing UAVs for measuring the marine atmospheric boundary layer and ocean surface processes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsReineman B.D, Lenain L., Melville W.K
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Date Published2016/09
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0739-0572
Accession NumberWOS:000384535300015
Keywordsair-sea fluxes; Bathymetry; deep-cycle turbulence; equatorial undercurrent model; flow distortion; internal waves; large-eddy; roll; Shear; simulation; vortices; water

The deployment and recovery of autonomous or remotely piloted platforms from research vessels have become a way of significantly extending the capabilities and reach of the research fleet. This paper describes the use of ship-launched and ship-recovered Boeing-Insitu ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The UAVs were instrumented to characterize the marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) structure and dynamics, and to measure ocean surface processes during the October 2012 Equatorial Mixing (EquatorMix) experiment in the central Pacific and during the July 2013 Trident Warrior experiment off the Virginia coast. The UAV measurements, including atmospheric momentum and radiative, sensible, and latent heat fluxes, are complemented by measurements from ship-based instrumentation, including a foremast MABL eddy-covariance system, lidar altimeters, and a digitized X-band radar system. During EquatorMix, UAV measurements reveal longitudinal atmospheric roll structures not sampled by ship measurements, which contribute significantly to vertical fluxes of heat and momentum. With the nadir-looking UAV lidar, surface signatures of internal waves are observed, consistent and coherent with measurements from ship-based X-band radar, a Hydrographic Doppler Sonar System, and a theoretical model. In the Trident Warrior experiment, the instrumented UAVs were used to demonstrate real-time data assimilation of meteorological data from UAVs into regional coupled ocean-atmosphere models. The instrumented UAVs have provided unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution in atmospheric and oceanographic measurements in remote ocean locations, demonstrating the capabilities of these platforms to extend the range and capabilities of the research fleet for oceanographic and atmospheric studies.

Short TitleJ. Atmos. Ocean. Technol.
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