NWC REU 2019
May 21 - July 30



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Observations of Planetary Boundary Layer Ozone Concentrations Using Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Cha'Lita Thompson, Brian Greene, Tyler Bell, and Elizabeth Pillar-Little


What is already known:

  • Ozone concentrations, measured at ground level and in the stratosphere, change over time and space.
  • Vertical mixing mechanisms (such as the nocturnal low-level jet) can cause ozone concentration to increase during non-peak hours.
  • Ozone is not routinely measured between ground level and the stratosphere.
  • Unmanned aircraft systems can measure CO2 within the planetary boundary layer, thus filling some of this gap.

What this study adds:

  • The ability to measure ozone concentration throughout the depth of the planetary boundary layer during non-peak hours using UAS, i.e., midday, late evening.
  • Analysis of data allows researchers to accurately measure pollutants and how they affect climate within the planetary boundary layer.
  • Sets forth guidelines and effective procedures for integrating trace gas measurements into UAS.


Ozone is found in abundance in the stratosphere but is also found in smaller, yet more harmful quantities, in the troposphere. This tropospheric ozone can cause public health concerns as well as agricultural damage. The focus of this research project is on the production of ozone in the planetary boundary layer during the day and how it is affected by the nocturnal low-level jet at night. Several methods are presently used to measure ozone concentration in the atmosphere. Ozonesondes can build a vertical profile of the atmosphere but are limited in number while ground stations monitor ozone concentration at the surface. Satellites are also used to measure ozone but do not provide details regarding concentration gradients in the planetary boundary layer. The use of unmanned aircraft systems can allow researchers to build a vertical profile of the planetary boundary layer. The unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is customizable and versatile which gives flexibility to researchers allowing them measure ozone concentrations as well as other atmospheric parameters such as trace gases, temperature, humidity, and aerosols.

Full Paper [PDF]