Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Aerospace Engineering

Major Professor

Steve Brooks

Committee Members

Trevor Moeller, Peter Solies


Current methods for atmospheric measurements, such as radiosondes, have limitations in providing adequate data collection in Earth’s planetary boundary layer. Technology has presented scientists with the opportunity to replace traditional weather and climate data gathering technology with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). UAV technology allows researchers to obtain customized resolution data, reduce the amount of debris contributed by radiosondes, and have a reusable system in place to satisfy the daily need for atmospheric boundary layer information that directly contributes to weather forecasting and agricultural needs. In this thesis, we have flight tested and evaluated two UAV types, fixed-wing and the rotary-wing, as reusable substitutes for the single-use balloon-borne radiosondes. The rotary-wing UAV, Meteomatics Meteodrone SSE, obtained vertical profile measurements of temperature and humidity. The fixed-wing UAV, Blackswift Technologies S2, gathered the identical atmospheric properties in a vertical up-and-down spiral flight. Utilizing constant climb and descent rates, researchers pose the risk of over or under sampling essential layers within the boundary layer. In order to ensure adequate sampling data is captured throughout the boundary layer diurnal cycle, example flight optimization profiles are presented for the typical early morning, midday and nocturnal stages of the atmospheric boundary layer. Optimization includes creating a series of horizontal and vertical steps to allow enough time for sensors to optimally capture data among the transitioning layers. This will generate a precise stair step flight pattern that can be readily programmed for unmanned aircraft. Flight profile optimization can essentially match the use of a tethered balloon system for high resolution in the lower boundary layer but providing the freedom of untethered flight with unlimited altitude capabilities.

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