Fast-response hot-wire flow sensors for wind and gust estimation on UAVs

Nathaniel Simon, Alexander Piqué, David Snyder, Kyle Ikuma, Anirudha Majumdar, Marcus Hultmark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Due to limitations in available sensor technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) lack an active sensing capability to measure turbulence, gusts, or other unsteady aerodynamic phenomena. Conventional in situ anemometry techniques fail to deliver in the harsh and dynamic multirotor environment due to form factor, resolution, or robustness requirements. To address this capability gap, a novel, fast-response sensor system to measure a wind vector in two dimensions is introduced and evaluated. This system, known as ‘MAST’ (for MEMS Anemometry Sensing Tower), leverages advances in microelectromechanical (MEMS) hot-wire devices to produce a solid-state, lightweight, and robust flow sensor suitable for real-time wind estimation onboard an UAV. The MAST uses five pentagonally-arranged microscale hot-wires to determine the wind vector’s direction and magnitude. The MAST’s performance was evaluated in a wind tunnel at speeds up to 5 m s−1 and orientations of 0-360. A neural network sensor model was trained from the wind tunnel data to estimate the wind vector from sensor signals. The average error of the sensor is 0.14 m s−1 for speed and 1.6 for direction. Furthermore, 95% of measurements are within 0.36 m s−1 for speed and 5.0 for direction. With a bandwidth of 570 Hz determined from square-wave testing, the MAST stands to greatly enhance UAV wind estimation capabilities and enable capturing relevant high-frequency phenomena in flow conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number025109
JournalMeasurement Science and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Mathematics


  • MEMS
  • UAV
  • anemometry
  • drone
  • gust
  • hot-wire
  • neural network


Dive into the research topics of 'Fast-response hot-wire flow sensors for wind and gust estimation on UAVs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this