Lightweight mid-infrared methane sensor for unmanned aerial systems

Levi M. Golston, Lei Tao, Caroline Brosy, Klaus Schäfer, Benjamin Wolf, James McSpiritt, Bernhard Buchholz, Dana R. Caulton, Da Pan, Mark Andrew Zondlo, David Yoel, Harald Kunstmann, Marty McGregor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number170
JournalApplied Physics B: Lasers and Optics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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