The design and field performance of a compact diode laser-based instrument for measuring methane on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is described. The system is based on open-path, wavelength modulation spectroscopy with a 3.27 µm GaSb laser. We design two versions of the sensor for a long-endurance fixed wing UAS and a rotary wing hexacopter, with instrument masses of 4.6 and 1.6 kg, respectively. The long-endurance platform was used to measure vertical profiles of methane up to 600 m in altitude and showed repeatability of 13 ppbv between multiple profiles. Additionally, the hexacopter system was used to evaluate the evolution of methane in the nocturnal boundary layer during the ScaleX field campaign in Germany, where measured data is consistent with supporting ground-based methane and meteorological measurements. Testing results on both platforms demonstrated our lightweight methane sensor had an in-flight precision of 5–10 ppbv Hz−1/2.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
- General Physics and Astronomy