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University of Kentucky Pioneers the Use of Atmospheric Sensing System on Stratospheric UAV Research

Travis J. Schuyler and Marcelo I. Guzman Contribute the First Stratospheric Measurements with an Innovative Drone Glider.

 T.J. Schuyler

Photo by Travis J. Schuyler: Sensor System to be mounted into the HiDRON.


Recent work by members of the Department of Chemistry has measured environmental variables during high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flights. The project goal is to reach a better understanding of meteorological conditions in the upper troposphere and the stratosphere to enable the next generation of weather forecasting models. In order to accurately sample atmospheric weather conditions in the stratosphere, the project has designed a sensor system integrated into a high-altitude glider, called the HiDRON. The HiDRON is a high-altitude in-situ measurement platform developed by earth observation company, Stratodynamics Aviation Inc.

Travis Schuyler, a PhD candidate working with Professor Marcelo Guzman in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, stated “I have built the system for fast sampling of temperature, pressure, and relative humidity during the descent trajectories of the balloon-launched HiDRON reaching a target altitude of 25 km.” Part of the challenge, explained Schuyler, involved the engineering to fit the instrument in the glider fuselage and to integrate it along with other important hardware and avionics systems to enable the unmanned flight and collection of atmospheric data. Marcelo Guzman commented, “we are very excited to share the resulting data collected using the glider with the scientific community soon.”

An immediate project goal is to compare the high-altitude data collected on the HiDRON with the high-resolution weather models for the same time and geographic location. 12 hours before the high-altitude launch, high-resolution weather models were provided by TruWeather Solutions and TempoQuest Inc.. This is the first time this kind of atmospheric-sensing equipment has been successfully integrated and flown using a balloon-launched, unmanned glider. The results will enable the evolution of new UAV technology and in-situ observation methodologies. Schuyler's closing comment was “this project has provided me amazing opportunities and a network to advance this kind of research to continue developing environmental monitoring devices. I would have never imagined how many exciting opportunities our graduate program could provide and I would highly recommend it to others.”

T.J. Schuyler doing his drone research during a launching in Belarus during Dcember 2018.

Photo of T.J. Schuyler preparing for lanching the HiDRON during December 2018 in Belarus.