As the manufacturer of the world’s smallest and lightest 3D ultrasonic anemometer, Anemoment LLC, a specialized meteorological instrument design firm based in Colorado, has gained quite the following in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) community. Its TriSonica™ Mini Wind & Weather Sensor is unrivalled in its Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) ratio making it ideal for UAV deployments. Delivering real-time wind, temperature, relative humidity, and air pressure in three-dimensions—essential data for atmospheric and metrological research, the TriSonica Mini is now integrated in UAV platforms from leading drone manufacturers and researchers worldwide. From boundary layer profiling to methane monitoring, the TriSonica Mini is quickly becoming the wind sensor of choice for companies like Ten Tech LLC, Aegis Technology Group, and Sparv Embedded.
Below are some case studies looking at how these companies are leveraging real-time weather data.
Ten Tech LLC (www.tentechllc.com)
Recently, Ten Tech LLC, a provider of aerospace and defense engineering services, announced the launch of its Huracán Multi-Purpose Aerial Drone (MPAD), a quadcopter UAV flight demonstrator platform designed for sensor testing, environmental data acquisition, communication and processing. The Huracán MPAD (Figure 1) is based on a DJI Phantom 4 drone and has been enhanced with several off-the-shelf sensors and communication modules including Digi XBEE and Anemoment’s TriSonica™ Mini Wind & Weather Sensor. The platform is designed to serve as an aerial sensor testbed as well as a proof-of-concept for further tactical, commercial and R&D UAS developments.
Figure 1: Huracån Multi-Purpose Aerial Drone (MPAD)
“One of the difficulties of integrating COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) electronics is evaluating performance under harsh conditions, such as MIL-STD-810,” emphasizes William Villers, VP of Engineering, Ten Tech LLC. “Our Huracán quadcopter sensors were validated by simulation. Using MSC Software’s Software Cradle CFD STREAM, we can predict thermal performance quickly & accurately (Figure 2).”
Figure 2: Thermal performance testing of the TriSonica Mini
Extensive Finite element analysis (FEA) was performed on the main airframe structure to ensure survival of the sensors under harsh shock & vibration to MIL-STD-810 standards. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) were used for aerodynamics studies and flight performance characterization, allowing for an optimized sensor positioning for both balancing flyability and minimizing propeller aerodynamics interference.
“We do a lot of testing virtually before even putting anything together or testing it physically,” Villers adds. “We look at the thermal performance of the components and see if we're going to get a hotspot and see how high in temperature we can go, as far as ambient temperature. We do the same thing with vibration, because we have vibration from the structure itself, from the quadcopter and it has a tendency of shaking the electronics and cracking the boards and cracking the components and the solders, so we looked at that in detail too. Eventually we want to be able to function on the field for military stuff usually means less than a 1% failure rate. That’s the kind of reliability we need to achieve.”
The TriSonica Mini Wind & Weather Sensor was chosen for a number of reasons, weight and size being two key considerations. “The TriSonica Mini is very, very light, and since we put it high up over the structure, the lighter it is, the better it is,” states Villers.
While its physical characteristics were important factors in its selection, service and support were equally critical to Ten Tech and Villers. “It has really been a pleasure to deal with Anemoment,” Villers says. “The support and the knowledge that Stephen and Liz provided us was important too. It makes a real difference.”
Integration of the sensor package on the Huracán, given the variety of components, proved to be challenging, but not insurmountable. “We have some RF sensors, some GPS positioning, some wireless capability, the ultrasonic anemometer, and an RGB camera, which eventually we will replace with most likely an IR camera,” said Villers.
“Honesty, among all of the sensors that we used, the TriSonica Mini was the easiest to integrate, even though it was the most sophisticated, as far as functionality. The TriSonica Mini was the component we were the most worried about, yet it turned out to be the easiest to integrate.”
The Huracán MPAD successfully passed all functional and operational tests, including both piloted and autonomous flight while recording and transmitting environmental data.
When asked to summarize his experience with Anemoment and their 3D ultrasonic anemometer, the TriSonica Mini Wind & Weather Sensor, Villers is quick to add, “Good people make good products. Anemoment’s products are really good. They do exactly what they’re supposed to do. I couldn’t ask for more.”
AEgis Technology Group (aegistg.com)
Atmospheric research is an expanding science, to say the least. To estimate optical turbulence and boundary layers, researchers have relied on numerical weather modeling. Traditionally, this involves differential temperature sensors installed on a tower (Figure 3) to measure temperature at multiple places simultaneously. These observations provide unquestionable value to meteorological studies. Yet this approach fails to provide detailed profiles of temperature, moisture, and winds within the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) found above the weather tower.
The introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) has proven to compliment traditional measurements with a unique capability to sample multi-dimensional ABL structure well beyond the height of the tower (Figure 4).
Alex Clark, Senior Engineer at AEgis Technologies, has assembled a sensor package designed specifically to gather essential atmospheric measurements in the upper ABL. Named the WP-V2 (Weather Payload Version 2), this payload package can be mounted to any number of UAVs and is equipped with a variety of atmospheric sensors and measurement devices enabling real-time weather monitoring (Figure 5).
Figure 4: The climb and loiter approach used by UAV pilots to capture atmospheric data beyond the height of a weather tower
“In the real world, we’re trying to limit the size of our airframe, limit the SWaP (Size, Weight and Power), and still collect accurate and meaningful data,” says Clark. “Because of its SWaP attributes, the TriSonica Mini is the perfect complement to our payload package.”
Figure 5: Weather Payload Version 2 (WPV2)
Platform agnostic, the WPV2 can be mounted on nearly all multi-rotor UAVs. Platforms it has been deployed on include AEgis Technologies’ Intense Eye Version II (IEV2), their 750 millimeter quadcopter; their E900, a larger 900 millimeter quadcopter; the E1250, their large 1250 millimeter UAV, and the DJI M600, a 1668 millimeter hexacopter. (Figure 6)
Figure 6: Tested platforms for the WPV2 sensor package
Sparv Embedded AB (sparvembedded.com)
UAVs provide a convenient and effective way to sample methane, a gas with a greenhouse effect 84 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Sparv Embedded is helping Linköping University to integrate a high precision CH4 (methane) sensor from Aeris Technologies with the Sparvio system. The sensor has an unprecedented CH4 resolution for its size, measuring variations smaller than one ppb (parts per billion). This is more than enough to map background levels, around 2 ppm.
(Figure 7) shows a quadcopter hovering with the white Aeris sensor attached underneath. The quadcopter also carries a Sparvio sensor system that synchronizes data from Aeris with readings from a the TriSonica Mini ultrasonic wind sensor, GPS and other sensors. Sparvio logs all data and transmits it to a ground station to visualize on a map in real-time. In the end, the combination of all data will be used to calculate not only the location of methane emission sources, but also the quantity of gas flow.
Figure 7: Capturing high resolution methane measurements from a UAS
“The TriSonica Mini is the lightest 3D wind sensor available,” states Anders Petersson, President, Sparv Embedded AB. “This positions the TriSonica Mini to address the blind spot of wind sensing capabilities of small UAV. The TriSonica Mini is a natural addition to our Sparvio sensing platform.”
About the TriSonica Mini Wind & Weather Sensor
The TriSonica Mini Wind & Weather Sensor optimizes Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) variables. As the world’s smallest and lightest 3D ultrasonic anemometer, the TriSonica Mini Wind and Weather Sensor is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet is a highly accurate, powerful tool for anyone involved in atmospheric monitoring, weather reporting, turbulence calculations, and ecosystem research.
Even with its small size it provides wind speed, direction, temperature, humidity, pressure, tilt, and compass data. The TriSonica Mini can also provide measurements of all three dimensions of air flow.
The open path provides the least possible distortion of the wind field. Four measurement paths provide a redundant measurement. The path with the most distortion is removed from the calculations to provide accurate wind measurements. Further, data output can be customized to user requirements.
Available with a pipe-mount base accommodating any 1/2” DN15 Schedule 10 pipe. To further protect components and streamline your installation, wiring runs through the interior of the pipe when using this configuration.
Given their diminutive size they are well suited for portable, temporary deployments, while the fact they have no moving parts, thus eliminating maintenance issues, makes them ideal for permanent installations.
About Anemoment LLC
Anemoment LLC is a specialized meteorological instrument design firm located in Longmont, CO. Anemoment brings you the world’s smallest and lightest 3-dimensional ultrasonic anemometer. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the TriSonica Mini is a highly accurate, powerful tool for anyone involved in atmospheric monitoring, weather reporting, turbulence calculations, and ecosystem research. Its size makes it well suited for portable, temporary deployments, while the fact it has no moving parts, thus eliminating maintenance issues, makes the TriSonica Mini perfect for permanent installations. With its patented wave signal noise reduction technology, the TriSonica Mini Wind and Weather Sensor gives you the power to “Know the Wind.” More information can be found at anemoment.com.