The existence of a UAS capable of carrying the necessary instruments routinely through harsh environments adds an invaluable contribution to the calibration and validation of data collected from ground and satellite-based methods.
Black Swift Technology’s UAS have been utilized for scientific research by federal and state agencies and other government-funded laboratories to collect data on coherent atmospheric structures such as volcano plumes, wildfire smoke, soil moisture content, etc. Commercial applications for private industry include using a UAS to assess the composition, and relative danger, of chemical fires at refineries or the chemical composition of smokestack exhaust.
These harsh environments have demonstrated to NASA, NOAA and similar scientific agencies (all requiring a high degree of precision, accuracy and reliability) that this purpose-built platform is designed to effectively capture atmospheric data in the most challenging environments.
From arctic conditions gathering snow and ice aerial measurements, to flights over and around volcanoes measuring select gases and atmospheric properties, the S2 has proven itself to meet or exceed the expectations of our most demanding clients. Our aircraft have been deployed in 72 different flights in supercell thunderstorms, two of them tornadic; relied upon for wildland fire observations, hurricane monitoring, and mapping missions at altitudes exceeding 14,260 feet (AGL)—all utilizing sensor-reactive flight patterns.
Flights were conducted in Costa Rica using Black Swift’s most advanced UAS, the Black Swift S2 (Figure 1), equipped with a variety of sensors designed to measure gases such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), methane (CH4), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and carbon dioxide (CO2) being emitted by the volcano. In addition, the S2 also carried a nephelometer to assess volcanic particle size and distribution, as well as atmospheric probes to analyze pressure, temperature, humidity (PTH), and three-dimensional (3D) wind patterns.
While emission rates can be monitored and measured from the ground, accurate data collection on volcanoes can be hazardous as crater temperatures reach extreme levels. These flights demonstrated that a purpose-built UAS can accurately measure the compounds present in the gas plumes above volcanoes in a safer and more repeatable manner than surface methods.
The S2 was fitted with sensors specifically designed to capture and measure a variety of gases including CO2, CO, aerosol, RH, p, and T found in the wildfire plumes, while also providing multispectral high-resolution maps of wildfires.
The ultimate goal of NightFOX (Nighttime Fire Observations eXperiment) is to perform nighttime in situ measurements of wildfire plumes and remote measurements of wildfire properties, and use of the measured data for fire weather forecast improvement, while NOAA’s Fire Influence on Regional and Global Environments Experiment (FIREX) uses the S2 to characterize nighttime fire emissions and fire characteristics.
This collaborative, supportive approach serves as the foundation for a new research paradigm centered on atmospheric research providing researchers and scientists access to highly specialized unmanned aerial research equipment without the burden of acquisition costs or ongoing maintenance fees.
Modeled after the burgeoning subscription-based business model, CU’s Atmospheric Research Service Initiative provides scientists and researchers access to one of the largest and most diverse fleet of UAS specifically designed for atmospheric sensing along with one of the nation’s leading ground support offerings (cars, personnel, calibration equipment and towers, etc.). This team, whose customers include NASA, NOAA, JPL, UTSI, NPS, DOI, and leading research institutions worldwide, can address almost any foreseeable atmospheric science requirement from simple data acquisition through full-service custom payload installation and operation.
This alliance delivers unheralded UAS research experience, personnel, avionics, payload and sensor capabilities, coupled with the UAS flight control infrastructure previously unattainable in a unified resource.
Program allows researchers and scientists the freedom to focus on the science of their programs versus the logistics.
IRISS Chief Technologist
With its intuitive tab-driven interface, flight planning is simple and easy to accomplish. Mission monitoring and mapping is all done from a handheld Android™ Tablet loaded with BST’s SwiftTab™ software. Gesture-based controls enable users to confidently deploy their UAS with minimal training while being able to collect data over geography that is topically diverse with confidence.