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Aeronautics | 01. September 2016 | posted by Fabian Locher

A day in the tropical sky

Flugplatz Togo
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The apron of the hangar – the Falcon is ready for more measurements

It is the middle of the night on the coast of West Africa. A team of sleepy aircraft technicians and atmospheric researchers exit the hotel lobby. The humidity hits them like a brick wall – it is already 25 degrees Celsius outside. Their departure for Gnassingbé Eyadéma Airport is scheduled at four AM sharp. The first motorcycles of the day thunder past the walls of the hotel complex. Today’s take-off is set for 09:30. But the chauffeurs are late – again.

At 04:30, two cars drive up along the beach promenade through the still quiet streets of Lomé, the capital city of Togo.

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
En route to the hangar via Boulevard Du Mono.

Twenty minutes later, the group reaches their destination – a small hangar next to the international airport. Waiting for them, ready for use, is the Falcon 20E , a very reliable member of DLR’s fleet of research aircraft. read more

Aeronautics | 02. June 2015

ARCTIC15 - Airborne SAR acquisitions up and running

Credit: DLR / Martin Keller (CC-BY 3.0)
A first SAR data quicklook of the Kangerlussuaq calibration test site. The colours represent the intensity in different polarisations (Red: VV, Green: HV, Blue: HH). The airport is clearly visible in black. From the centre of the image, the fjord extents in a south-west direction, where skidoo-tracks to the next village can be seen.

Three calibration flights, 10 flights to test sites, and over 100 radar data sets resulting in 4.8 Terabyte of SAR data. These are the numbers behind the work our F-SAR team conducted within the last two weeks – including even the alteration from the X-C-S-L to the P-band antenna configuration and fortunately only one bad weather day.

DLR's Do-228 airplane, with the F-SAR system on board arrived on Friday, 24 May, in Kangerlussuaq. On the following Monday, the team consisting of two pilots, one flight engineer and two radar operators took off for the first calibration flight. In the first two weeks, the antenna configuration for the X-, C-, S- and L-band frequencies was installed on the plane. This range of different frequencies will allow us to compare radar acquisitions with different penetration depths into the snow and ice. The team acquired SAR data over all the test sites where we had installed corner reflectors. Additionally, the area around the airport and town of Kangerlussuaq is overflown for calibration purposes and is well equipped with seven reflectors. It seems like the locals got used to these strange metallic artefacts in their town pretty fast.

Credit: DLR / Ralf Horn (CC-BY 3.0)
DLR's Do-228 with the F-SAR radar system on board after refuelling at the airport of Ilulissat, Greenland. The X-C-S-L antenna mount is visible on the rear of the plane.

Eventually, during the first days after the calibration flight, we had to face exactly those smaller and bigger problems – those that one must always expect during a campaign, as mentioned in the previous post. But the F-SAR team proved their problem-solving skills and campaign experience. From non-matching connections of the local oxygen supply to unstable electronic parts, they were able to fix everything without causing any delay to the campaign plan. I have to admit that I was already worried about losing one test site due to the technical difficulties, but the team was able to acquire almost all the data we had planned for. For now, we can say that the X-C-S-L phase was successful, giving us plenty of scientific data.

Credit: DLR / Georg Fischer (CC-BY 3.0)
The F-SAR team preparing to remove the X-C-S-L antenna from the side of the Do-228 airplane.

The change to the P-band antenna configuration was completed successfully. The P-band wavelength is the longest we will use during this campaign and penetrates several tens of metres into the ice. We are already curious about what kind of subsurface features we will see in the data.

Today, while I'm writing, the F-SAR team is flying over the K-transect to conduct the first P-band acquisitions. Currently, we are all very optimistic about the upcoming part of the campaign.

Aeronautics | 29. May 2015

WindVal: Petta reddast

Betanken der Falcon vor dem Start
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Falcon ready for the jet stream flight, in the background is the NASA DC-8

In Iceland you hear one phrase very often: 'petta reddast', which can be translated as "it will all work out okay". With that in mind, we started planning the flight to have a closer look at strong changes in the horizontal and vertical gradients of the wind speeds in the atmosphere, which is one of the key objectives of the ADM-Aeolus WindVal campaign.

When operating from Iceland, the ideal target region for such an endeavour is in or near a jet stream (fast flowing current in the atmosphere with a meandering shape) over the North Atlantic that is within range of the aircraft. The situation on Friday 15 May 2015 offered a great opportunity to address this aim and coordinate with the NASA DC-8 to observe strong jet stream winds. We have total of four wind lidar systems on the two aircraft, the DC-8 and DLR’s Falcon. read more

Aeronautics | 21. May 2015

ARCTIC15 Field Campaign

Forschungskampagne in Grönland
Credit: Silvan Leinss
The other, more beautiful side of field work. -22 degrees Celsius without wind on a sunny day can feel quite warm and comfortable. Perfect working conditions!

ARCTIC15 is a campaign promoted by the Microwaves and Radar Institute of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), carried out in cooperation with ETH Zurich and with the support of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI). It takes place in Greenland from mid-April to the end of May 2015 with the objective of collecting polarimetric-interferometric SAR data at different frequencies (X-, C-, S-, L- and P-band) over different facies of the ice sheet. The measurements are performed using DLR's airborne F-SAR sensor. In total, the activities involve five test sites and include the collection of ground measurements, like ground penetrating radar (GPR) profiles and snow and firn stratigraphy, as well as the installation of GPS stations and corner reflectors for the calibration of the SAR acquisitions. read more