Home » Emerging Technologies » CAPSonde
Conceptual Phase
CAPSonde is presently not available.
Contact: Terry Hock NCAR/EOL Foothills Laboratory 3450 Mitchell Lane Boulder, CO 80301 Phone: 303-497-8767 E-mail: hock@ucar.edu
Emerging Technologies
“CAPSonde” is the dropwindsonde system that was considered for operational deployment in conjunction with the commercial airliner protection system. Vaisala Inc. and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) identified the relevant requirements and benefits pertaining to developing an operational dropwindsonde capability that is fully compatible with the ALE-47 countermeasures system that is deployed on some commercial aircraft. Although the CAP system was not implemented, the “capsonde” concept remains a viable operational atmospheric sounding opportunity. A dropwindsonde (also called a dropsonde) is an atmospheric sounding device that is ejected from an airborne platform and makes precise, highly-resolved measurements of winds, temperature, humidity and pressure as it descends to Earth. The measured data are telemetered to the aircraft where they are converted into an international standard meteorological message format and are then retransmitted via RF link to ground. Vaisala and NCAR have collaborated on dropsonde development and manufacturing for the past decade, and currently offer the world’s only operational dropsonde system used by research and operational reconnaissance aircraft in eight countries including the U.S. These dropsondes are the backbone of the quantitative hurricane reconnaissance program operated by NOAA and the USAF Reserves, as well as the NOAA winter storms reconnaissance program that operates off the U.S. West Coast. Operational dropsonde capability from commercial aircraft would provide at least four areas of significant benefit and associated cost avoidance and cost reduction both to the airline industry and traditional users of weather –forecast information: 1) Over-ocean CAPSonde soundings would provide several real-time benefits to enroute aircraft. In-flight access to sounding data and associated analyses would enable airlines to alter flight tracks to avoid or minimize in-flight turbulence, and to minimize flight times by avoiding unexpectedly adverse winds. 2) There are also benefits that would result from improved 24-to-48-hr forecasts of flight-level winds. Over-ocean dropsonde soundings would fill a critical data void in the global atmospheric observing system, enabling more accurate and longer-range forecasts of severe weather both at sea and over land – see Shapiro and Thorpe (2004). By increasing the accuracy of enroute wind forecasts and reducing the associated uncertainty, aircraft would be able to minimize flight times, minimize fuel consumption, and carry more cargo. Improved 24-to-48-hour weather forecasts would also reduce adverse impacts on terminal operations and minimize costly and disruptive delays and diversions – a major financial and societal impact on the airlines and passengers. 3) In the event of an industrial accident or terrorist action resulting in the release of toxic chemicals or biological agents, CAPSonde-equipped aircraft could be diverted to obtain atmospheric soundings over the affected area while flying high and safely above the plume of hazardous agents. These atmospheric soundings would then be available for direct use in initializing atmospheric dispersion and chemical transport models – see NRC (2003), Dabberdt et al. (2004a) and Dabberdt et al. (2004b); 4) CAPSonde soundings would also facilitate more accurate predictions of the dispersion of volcanic ash plumes and enable aircraft to be safely and effectively diverted. Design Constraints for the Dropsonde • Compatibility with the ALE-47 Counter Measure Dispenser and the MJU-10 (flare) magazine (or equivalent). • The physical dimensions of the dropsonde required to fit the MJU-10 magazine will not exceed 2.0 inch diameter and 8 inches in length including the impulse cartridge. • The dropsonde must withstand the high “G” loading occurring during launch without damage to the sonde or sensors. • The dropsonde sensor response times and accuracy should be equivalent to the existing aircraft dropsonde response times and accuracy. • The dropsondes will be factory preset at a fixed frequency in the 401.15 – 406 MHz meteorological band that will not interfere with other users in that band. • The CAPSonde aircraft data and control system needs to be compatible with the aircraft’s data system. • Sonde deployment should not require communication with the aircraft data system prior to launch. The Miniature In-Situ Sounding Technology (MIST) dropsonde developed by NCAR for the Driftsonde almost meets the design requirements for the CAPSonde. The MIST sonde is 1.75 inch diameter and 12 inches long; the diameter could be increased to 2.0 inches and the length decreased to 8 inches by redesigning the PCB board. The sensors used on the MIST sonde are the same sensors used for the aircraft dropsonde. The MIST sonde weighs approximately 170 grams and uses the cone parachute which duplicates the fall velocity characteristics of the aircraft dropsonde.
Terry Hock
Earth Observing Laboratory 3450 Mitchell Lane Boulder, Colorado 80301
303 497 8767
DeveloperTerry Hock and Hal Cole
Development SectorConsortium
R&D ProgramNo
Years Till AvailableN/A
Investment Required$100k-$1M
Projected Applicationsoundings over oceans and remote regions
Unit Cost<$1k
Key RisksFAA and ICAO approval; airline buy-in; availability of operational support
Ease of Useunattended
28 Sep 2009 14:51