Mini drone instruments for meteorological research

06 February 2015, Météo France

Drones have serious advantages for studying the atmosphere: they are able to fly up to a few kilometres altitude and can be directed as required. Researchers at Météo France have recently conducted a test campaign at Atmospheric Research Centre (CRA) of Labotratoire d'Aérologie / Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées, in collaboration with the National Civil Aviation School (ENAC). The objective: to test under real weather conditions the miniaturised sensors that will equip the drones in a planned measurement campaign on Cyprus in this spring.

A technological challenge

The size of the sensors available on the market have, so far, not been suitable for integration on small-sized aircraft, and have limited the use of mini-drones to the simples measurements such as temperature, humidity, and pressure. The work of the GMEI (Groupe de recherche en Météorologie Expérimentale et Instrumentale) research group of Météo France now offers new possibilities in this area. For the purposes of the European Project BACCHUS*, which aims to study the role of aerosols in climate change, researchers at Météo France have equipped mini-drones with different miniaturised sensor types (particle counters, 3D wind vectors, etc.) for the first time.

Instrument tests in real conditions

The instruments were tested for three days at the CRA site at Lannemezan. The site was chosen for its infrastructure that allows validating the sensors on the drones, as well as access to the restricted, civilian airspace. Fifteen flights were made up to 2000 metres above sea level and within a 1.5 km radius. These tests were conducted to make final adjustments to the intruments before the first measurement campaign of the BACCHUS project, which will take place in Cyprus in March.

* The BACCHUS project (Impact of Biogenic versus Anthropogenic Emissions on Clouds and Climate: towards a Holistic Understanding) brings together twenty European laboratories.

See the original French article at

_______________________________________________________________________ ETH Zurich