OVLI-TA: An Unmanned Aerial System for Measuring Profiles and Turbulence in the Atmospheric Boundary Layer.Sensors (Basel) 2019; 19(3)S
In recent years, we developed a small, unmanned aerial system (UAS) called OVLI-TA (Objet Volant Leger Instrumenté⁻Turbulence Atmosphérique) dedicated to atmospheric boundary layer research, in Toulouse (France). The device has a wingspan of 2.60 m and weighed 3.5 kg, including payload. It was essentially developed to investigate turbulence in a way complementary to other existing measurement systems, such as instrumented towers/masts. OVLI-TA's instrumental package includes a 5-hole probe on the nose of the airplane to measure attack and sideslip angles, a Pitot probe to measure static pressure, a fast inertial measurement unit, a GPS receiver, as well as temperature and moisture sensors in specific housings. In addition, the Pixhawk autopilot is used for autonomous flights. OVLI-TA is capable of profiling wind speed, wind direction, temperature, and humidity up to 1 km altitude, in addition to measuring turbulence. After wind tunnel calibrations, flight tests were conducted in March 2016 in Lannemezan (France), where there is a 60-m tower equipped with turbulence sensors. In July 2016, OVLI-TA participated in the international project DACCIWA (Dynamics-Aerosol-Chemistry-Clouds Interactions in West Africa), in Benin. Comparisons of the OVLI-TA observations with both the 60 m tower measurements and the radiosonde profiles showed good agreement for the mean values of wind, temperature, humidity, and turbulence parameters. Moreover, it validated the capacity of the drone to sample wind fluctuations up to a frequency of around 10 Hz, which corresponds to a spatial resolution of the order of 1 m.