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Aerosonde Project update

Project description

First hurricane flight story
Aerosonde first hurricane flight

Aerosonde Corp.
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility

As many of you may remember, we planned to conduct TC-Aerosonde flights during the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season but due to range constraints associated with deploying/recovering out of NASA's coastal Virginia Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), we did not end up flying in 2004.

Similar to 2004, all planned 2005 TC-Aerosonde missions will originate and recover out of WFF.

As far as the experimental flight plan goes, we will be conducting low level boundary layer inflow experiments that include low level eyewall penetrations (potentially as low as 500ft). For more details on the experimental layout and other details (including a related power point presentation) please go HERE.

In all, we will have approximately 75h for use on the Aerosonde this season. After accounting for a 6-8h clear air test/calibration mission we should have two (or possibly three) 20-24h flights to work with. Our plan is to attempt to utilize all or most of our hours on one storm, if possible. We believe there are two primary advantages for going this route. One is logistically-based and the other is science based. First, given our range constraint of ~2000-2500km total flight distance, we will have limited storm opportunities. Secondly, by flying two (or possibly three) staggered 20-24h missions in one system we will get a rare opportunity to have long-term continuity, and as such, a much better chance to observe and diagnose any changes in storm structure and/or storm intensity that might occur. As was the case in 2004, we hope to have a minimum of 2 Aerosondes available for this effort.

The following flight constraints were placed on Aerosonde during CAMEX-4 in 2001. These constraints and rules will also be followed this season for any potential Atlantic basin TC-Aerosonde missions in 2005:

  1. Autonomous flight termination at 2500ft 1
  2. Autonomous flight termination on lost SATCOM link (Iridium). SATCOM link time out to be set at 45 min.
  3. Flight termination ability from Aerosonde Mission Planning Interface (AMPI)
  4. AMPI to be setup in CARCAH with Aerosonde operator
  5. On command from CARCAH we must terminate a flight if there are separation conflicts
  6. When the 53rd AF has been tasked for a low-level invest or fix, there will be no Aerosonde flights. (This has been Specifically added for 2005 flight plans) 2

Notes :
1: One possible exception to the 2500 ft ceiling limitation is being proposed. If no manned aircraft are in the storm, a spiral sounding within the hurricane eye (up to a max altitude of 10000 ft) is requested. In addition, eyewall penetration at this altitude (as the Aerosonde departs the eye) is also requested. Immediate descent to 2500ft would be initiated once the Aerosonde safely exits the hurricane eyewall region and begins the ferry back to Wallops Island, Va. This exception is requested so as to maximize the chances of aircraft full recovery. Again, this flight path deviation above the 2500 ft ceiling will ONLY be requested if NO manned aircraft are in the storm at the time.

2 While still adhering to the 6 limitations outlined above, it also should be noted that there is a strong interest to coordinate 2005 Aerosonde efforts with any non low-level invest AFRES mission in addition to any scheduled or tasked G-4/P-3 flights that may arise. (In any such Aerosonde/manned flight coordinated mission the 2500 ft ceiling will be strictly adhered to.)


This has yet to be officially determined. However, we hope to conduct our calibration test flight the first week of August and be ready to fly TC missions soon after. As of today, it appears that our "operational window of opportunity" will be most of August 2005 and from early October through the end of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. However, it should be noted that these times may be subject to change.


We have tentatively set the ftp data update cycle to be every 15 minutes from takeoff to a radial distance of 200 km and then every 5 minutes radially inward of 200 km. The number of individual AMDAR strings posted for each (15min or 5min) ftp update could range from 1 (far from the storm in ~homogeneous conditions) to several AMDAR strings per ftp update (e.g. near the eyewall). Again, his will wholly depend on the relative position of the Aerosonde platform within the storm environment.

DATA ACCURACY/ERROR CHARACTERISTICS - In order to accurately and reliably measure atmospheric parameters the Aerosonde uses 3 Vaisala RSS902 Sondes. These sondes can measure Pressure, Temperature and Humidity within 0.2 hPa, 0.1°K, 2%, respectively. Using Aerosonde's Proprietary wind measurement system winds can be measured within 0.5 ms-1.

As far as the reliability of these measurements Aerosonde has provided the following estimates with regard to instrument measurement error:

     Pressure:  +/- 1.5 hPa
     Temp:      +/- 0.5°K
     Humidity:  +/- 2%
     Winds:     +/- 0.5 m/s
     IR SST:    +/- 0.1°K

Additional details about this Aerosonde project well as the Aerosonde Corporation can be found HERE. For information about NASA's Wallops Flight Facility please visit HERE.

If you have questions or comments about the Aerosonde or about our 2005 plans to use this unique platform in the near-surface hurricane environment, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Joe Cione
(305) 361-4406

Last modified: 8/01/2005

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