Vertical sampling scales for atmospheric boundary layer measurements from small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS)

Benjamin L. Hemingway, Amy E. Frazier, Brian R. Elbing, Jamey D. Jacob

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The lowest portion of the Earth's atmosphere, known as the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL), plays an important role in the formation of weather events. Simple meteorological measurements collected from within the ABL, such as temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind velocity, are key to understanding the exchange of energy within this region, but conventional surveillance techniques such as towers, radar, weather balloons, and satellites do not provide adequate spatial and/or temporal coverage for monitoring weather events. Small unmanned aircraft, or aerial, systems (sUAS) provide a versatile, dynamic platform for atmospheric sensing that can provide higher spatio-temporal sampling frequencies than available through most satellite sensing methods. They are also able to sense portions of the atmosphere that cannot be measured from ground-based radar, weather stations, or weather balloons and have the potential to fill gaps in atmospheric sampling. However, research on the vertical sampling scales for collecting atmospheric measurements from sUAS and the variabilities of these scales across atmospheric phenomena (e.g., temperature and humidity) is needed. The objective of this study is to use variogram analysis, a common geostatistical technique, to determine optimal spatial sampling scales for two atmospheric variables (temperature and relative humidity) captured from sUAS. Results show that vertical sampling scales of approximately 3 m for temperature and 1.5-2 m for relative humidity were sufficient to capture the spatial structure of these phenomena under the conditions tested. Future work is needed to model these scales across the entire ABL as well as under variable conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number176
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 13 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Atmospheric physics
  • Drones
  • Geostatistics
  • Meteorology
  • Spatial sampling
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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