Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 06 Issue 03

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Volume 06, No. 3
Pages 129 - 135

Small Autonomous Aircraft for Economical Oceanographic Observations on a Wide Scale

Tad McGeer Greg J. Holland
First Paragraph

A prototype aerosonde, which will fit comfortably on a desktop, and can be packed in two boxes sufficiently small to be taken as airline luggage, is shown in Figure 1. It will have a range of over 7,000 km, endurance up to 4 days, capacity for precision navigation anywhere on the globe and for timely communication back to your desktop PC, and full autonomy, so that it will not require continuous monitoring during flight. Its payload will be sufficient for a variety of lightweight oceanographic and atmospheric sensors, including radiosonde-type meteorological instruments, a short-range radar altimeter, solar/infrared (IR) and broad-band radiometers combined with a precise attitude reference, an optical rain gauge, or a video camera with a short-range downlink. Aerosondes may be operated on long autonomous missions or over short distances from a controlling ship or coastal station, in quantity for operational reconnaissance and major field programs, or individually, perhaps even by the solo researcher with little more than a laptop, a modem, and a small field for launch and recovery. If used in large numbers their unit cost should be on the order of $10,000.


McGeer, T., and G.J. Holland. 1993. Small autonomous aircraft for economical oceanographic observations on a wide scale. Oceanography 6(3):129–135, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.1993.08.