SUAS-BASED PAYLOAD DEVELOPMENT AND TESTING FOR QUANTIFYING OPTICAL TURBULENCE
Jones, Kevin D.
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High Energy Laser (HEL) systems are becoming ubiquitous across the Department of Defense for their precision, low shot cost, tunability and cycling time. However, laser propagation through the atmosphere is affected by atmospheric turbulence. It is essential to quantify this atmospheric effect to predict operational conditions as well as improve laser system performance. The main objective of this study is to quantity optical turbulence within the atmospheric boundary layer using a small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS). The sUAS-based sensor package was developed for this application. Temperature and humidity profiles were derived from a radiosonde system onboard the sUAS. Additionally, high-rate temperature and slow-response temperature were measured by a thermocouple and a high-accuracy platinum thermometer, respectively. All of these meteorological components were integrated into a comprehensive, lightweight and low-power consumption sUAS payload system. The sensor package was thoroughly ground tested in comparison with proven methods. Test flights of the sensor package integrated onto the sUAS were made at the McMillian Airfield. The platform proved itself in flying at various altitudes within the surface layer to measure optical turbulence. Optical turbulence varied most directly near the surface as a result of strong surface buoyancy forcing. Results of the mean profiles as well as optical turbulence from test flights and comparison bench testing are discussed.
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