Thanks to the redesign of an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a team of scientists and engineers has been able to sample methane and CO2 gases in the remote South Atlantic.
Researchers from the universities of Bristol and Birmingham, as well as Royal Holloway, University of London, recently returned from a second research trip to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic.
Building on their experience on the island last year, the team redesigned the payload of an octocopter to be able to sample methane and CO2 by using a unique, pressurized system. This involved evacuating flasks at ground level then over-pressuring these at altitudes specified during the ascent.
For a two-week period, the team carried out multiple flights up to 9,000 feet and 3,000 feet above the inversion, including two local demonstration flights. They have now conducted over 100 flights in Ascension over the two campaigns and are planning future projects.
The U.K.’s Natural Environment Research Council funded the project, aimed at improving the understanding of southern tropical methane sources, their distribution and causes of variability. The results will be presented at an American Geophysical Union meeting in December.