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Ross T. Palomaki, Nathan T. Rose, Michael van den Bossche, Thomas J. Sherman, and Stephan F. J. De Wekker


Unmanned aerial vehicles are increasingly used to study atmospheric structure and dynamics. While much emphasis has been on the development of fixed-wing unmanned aircraft for atmospheric investigations, the use of multirotor aircraft is relatively unexplored, especially for capturing atmospheric winds. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the efficacy of estimating wind speed and direction with 1) a direct approach using a sonic anemometer mounted on top of a hexacopter and 2) an indirect approach using attitude data from a quadcopter. The data are collected by the multirotor aircraft hovering 10 m above ground adjacent to one or more sonic anemometers. Wind speed and direction show good agreement with sonic anemometer measurements in the initial experiments. Typical errors in wind speed and direction are smaller than 0.5 and 30°, respectively. Multirotor aircraft provide a promising alternative to traditional platforms for vertical profiling in the atmospheric boundary layer, especially in conditions where a tethered balloon system is typically deployed.

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