Stationary and drone-assisted methane plume localization with dispersion spectroscopy

Michael G. Soskind, Nathan P. Li, Daniel P. Moore, Yifeng Chen, Lars P. Wendt, James McSpiritt, Mark A. Zondlo, Gerard Wysocki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This work presents stationary and mobile retroreflector-based remote sensing techniques for methane leak localization and quantification using chirped laser dispersion spectroscopy equipped with a custom laser transceiver capable of continuous tracking of a flying drone and coupled with inverse atmospheric gas dispersion modeling. The techniques demonstrate the ability to localize leaks as low as 0.13 g CH4·s−1, which are up to 25 times smaller than those typically observed at natural gas facilities, as well as actively track a moving retroreflector mounted on a lightweight (∼250 g) drone to enable spatial plume reconstruction. This system exhibited a 2.3 ppm-m sensitivity over pathlengths of 40–150 m. Source localization to within ±7 m is demonstrated using a modified horizontal radial plume mapping technique with a stationary retroreflector grid. Meanwhile, the mobile system utilizing a drone-mounted retroreflector is able to localize a controlled release within ±1 m of its source location and estimate leak rates using inversion techniques assuming type B Gaussian plume stability class within ±30% error with respect to the actual low flow rate releases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113513
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - May 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


  • Laser spectroscopy
  • Source attribution
  • Standoff sensing
  • Target tracking


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