ALTUS Cumulus Electrification Study

Project Description
The Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle (UAV) represents an exciting new technology that can contribute in significant and unique ways to lightning and storm observations. In turn, these measurements can be linked to global scale processes (e.g., global water and energy cycle, climate variability and prediction, atmospheric chemistry) to provide an improved understanding of the total Earth system.

We have chosen the ALTUS II aircraft produced by General Atomic-Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) for the ACES investigation. The decision to select GA-ASI as the partner was based on a number of factors including the maturity level of the ALTUS aircraft, its performance capabilities and proven flight record, and the successful integration and flight of the ACES payload on ALTUS in September 2000 under a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) activity with IDEA managed by one of the Co-Investigators (Co-Is), Dr. R. Goldberg.

We propose to fly ALTUS as a component of a currently funded field experiment. That field experiment, in the vicinity of NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), is being conducted to both validate the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) satellite measurements, and investigate lightning activity and its relationship to storm morphology. The ACES payload, already developed and flown on ALTUS, includes several electrical, magnetic, and optical sensors to remotely characterize the lightning activity and the electrical environment within and around thunderstorms.

This summary is from