Design and field campaign validation of a multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle and optical particle counter

Joseph Girdwood, Helen R. Smith, Warren Stanley, Joseph Ulanowski, Chris Stopford, Charles Chemel, Konstantinos-Matthaios Doulgeris, David Brus, David Campbell, Robert Mackenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Small unmanned aircraft (SUA) have the potential to be used as platforms for the measurement of atmospheric particulates. The use of an SUA platform for these measurements provides benefits such as high manoeuvrability, re-usability, and low-cost when compared with traditional techniques. However, the complex aerodynamics of an SUA (particularly for multirotor airframes), combined with the miniaturisation of particle instruments poses difficulties for accurate and representative sampling of particulates. The work presented here relies on computational fluid dynamics with Lagrangian particle tracking (CFD-LPT) simulations to influence the design of a bespoke meteorological sampling system: the UH-AeroSAM. This consists of a custom built airframe, designed to reduce sampling artefacts due to the propellers, and a purpose built open-path optical particle counter–the Ruggedised Cloud and Aerosol Sounding System (RCASS). OPC size distribution measurements from the UH-AeroSAM are compared with the Cloud and Aerosol Precipitation Spectrometer (CAPS) for measurements of Stratus cloud during the Pallas Cloud Experiment (PaCE) in 2019. Good agreement is demonstrated between the two instruments. The integrated dN/dlog(Dp) is shown to have a coefficient of determination of 0.8, and a regression slope of 0.9 when plotted 1:1.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6613–6630
Number of pages18
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020


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