Not Just for Anonymous Killing Anymore

SciShort_4_16_15By Sidney Reilly

OSU researchers have found a way to make drone technology completely uncontroversial by using it to take temperatures in our lower atmosphere. John Selker, a professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Science, has developed his own fiber optic thermometers to hang from drones, allowing him to get incredibly accurate and localized temperature readings as the drone rises into the sky.

By combining fiber optics and drones, temperature changes as slight as 0.01 degrees Celsius can be detected as light travels through the strands hanging from the small aircraft. Selker is purchasing two new quadcopter drones to execute these delicate measurements.

“These two technologies together will add orders of magnitude to the precision and resolution of our atmospheric measurements,” said Selker in a press release. “We’ll be able to take a continuous slice of data through space and time, getting information that no one has been able to capture before.”

The difficulty in getting accurate readings in the lower atmosphere has long been a heavy impediment to learning about storm development, as well as pollution and pollen movement and dissipation.

“Typically, you’d have to take readings from a fixed point, a tower or a balloon. Now, instead of measuring one or two or three points at a time, we can measure a million points,” Selker added in the press release.

Selker is co-director of the Center for Transformative Environmental Monitoring (CTEMPs), a co-op between OSU and University of Nevada-Reno which is being funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the tune of $1.2 million. His fiber-optic drone technology represents a sea change in the field that should lead to increased understanding of our atmosphere on many fronts.