Organization: Department of Energy (DOE)

Research Title: Unmanned Aerospace Vehicles

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 0.0
FY95 1.0
FY96 1.0

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%)
(b) Environmental Issue: Climate Change (100%)
(c) Research Activity: System Structure and Function: Observations (100%)

Organizational Component:
Department of Energy; ER-74
Washington, DC 20585

Point of Contact:
Patrick Crowley
Phone: 301-903-3069

Research Goals:

Research Description:
UAVs have several advantages as platforms for climate process research among which are long endurance on station, very high altitude operation, measurements across vast geographic expanses, and responsiveness to real-time redirection. These unique capabilities are realized with the added advantage of no risk to pilot/crew. UAV technology has advanced to the stage where vehicles capable of some measure of the above advantages are available for commercial lease. The DoD Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) has funded an effort at DOE to develop instruments for UAV or satellite platforms. Under this program measurement campaigns will be undertaken to fly UAVs instrumented under the SERDP effort to collect data on the cloud/radiance problem. The first campaigns will be flown in support of the objectives of the DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program and utilize the extensive ground based instrumentation available in the ARM Cloud and Radiation Testbed (CART) sites to provide surface based measurements needed for more complete data on the effect of clouds on radiation transmission and absorption. The combination of ground-based and UAV based instrumentation will begin the necessary collection of data to resolve the long-standing difficulty of modeling cloud-radiation effects in General Circulation Models (GCMs). The USGCRP has set radiation balance problem as one of its most important problems in climate research and this program will make a strong contribution to the resolution of that issue. In addition these campaigns will provide proof that UAV technology is sufficiently mature to begin to fulfill its promise as a platform for global climate change and other environmental research. The data will be exploited by a science team made up from government laboratory and academic researchers as a result of a competitive process. Advice on this program has been obtained through several JASON reviews and guidance continues to be provided through the advice of a Technical Oversight Group (TOG) made up of researchers from NOAA, NASA, NSF and academic researchers.

Program Interfaces:
Present plans include participation by NASA in instrumentation, data analysis and mission guidance. DOE is participating in this program with DoD (Naval Research Laboratory) through the SERDP process. (NRL is undertaking a measurement program aimed at stratospheric phenomena in global environmental change.) The effort is primarily in support of the DOE ARM program. The potential for utilizing this capability for other global change research is very high - the instrument set as well as the proven platforms will be of high value to the community.

Program Milestones:

Policy Payoffs:
Improved values for utilization in GCMs for cloud-radiation studies should be available as a result of the first campaigns (2 years). These should result in improved predictions from the GCMs on climate predictions and the influence of ongoing human activities.