Skip to main content
Open Main MenuClose Main Menu

SCALES: Small-UAS Coordination for Atmospheric Low-Level Environmental Sampling

2024 ISARRA Flight Week Campaign that supports the WMO Demonstration Campaign

Dates: 8-13 September 2024

Location: Oklahoma, USA

Tyler Bell,
Adam Houston,
Univ. Nebraska microSCALES Co-Lead
James Pinto,
NCAR Data Lead
microSCALES Co-Lead
Elizabeth Smith,
NOAA NSSL Overall Lead
mesoSCALES Co-Lead 
NOAA airspace contact


mesoSCALES: Explore a 3-D Mesonet concept by conducting coordinated meteorological profile flights distributed across a region of mesoscale relevance that directly support the WMO UAS Demonstration Campaign


microSCALES: Explore the effects of urban landscapes by sampling urban heat island impacts and localized variations in winds and turbulence in support of high-fidelity large eddy simulation improvement efforts and the WMO UAS Demonstration Campaign

Technical demonstration: All deployments are anticipated to offer opportunities to advance technical objectives such as, but not limited to, data distribution and dissemination techniques; airspace deconfliction and monitoring techniques and technologies; operations feasibility for applications including networked deployments, urban flights, and advanced air mobility concepts; and additional technical scenarios not described here.



Participants are invited to join either meso- or microSCALES, or ask to be placed wherever the planning committee thinks they will be best utilized. Each non-technical objective describes the minimum requested observation types and minimum operating procedure expectations. Participants are expected to conduct the minimum operating procedure, but are welcome to collect additional data beyond the minimum procedure if it meets a scientific or technical interest of the participant. Participants are expected to join only one non-technical objective during SCALES to best distribute resources and allocate planning activities. Participation in data collection for one objective does not preclude participants from sharing data, collaborating, or contributing to research and development goals across the breadth of SCALES. Such collaboration is encouraged. Data providers are expected to use the WMO CF UAS Trajectory Format and post to the WMO Demonstration Campaign Data Repository with minimum feasible latency (contact James Pinto, data lead with questions).


Leads: Elizabeth Smith, Tyler Bell

Adding boundary layer profiling capabilities to meteorological mesonets has been slow progress. Remote profilers are one option, but these instruments are expensive and a single profiling site requires at least two for both thermodynamic and kinematic profiling. UAS are capable of acquiring both thermodynamic and kinematic profiles with one system and may be more cost-effective than remote-sensing profilers. At the moment, especially in the US, unattended UAS operations face regulatory barriers and fully automated systems are still a niche service. Considering costs and challenges associated with creating a boundary layer profiling network, optimal design and resulting impact or ‘return on investment’ of such a network must be understood before investment is made. Flight week offers the opportunity to deploy many UAS across mesonet sites to pilot the 3D mesonet concept, with several opportunities to profile meteorological phenomena. Depending on the synoptic pattern and evolution of local meteorology, different coordinated sampling outcomes could be realized (e.g., frontal passages, a tropical system, quiescent diurnal cycle, low-level jet, etc.). The meteorological research and analysis depends on the weather. However, in any scenario there are opportunities to:

  • Explore representation of atmospheric evolution in time and space in a 3D mesonet
  • Investigate and develop of a variety of value added product types enabled by networked profiles
  • Compare spatial and temporal representation of the lower atmosphere from a 3D mesonet to numerical tools used in operational forecasting and warning operations (e.g., NOAA’s Rapid Refresh Forecast System, Storm Prediction Center Mesoanalysis, NSSL’s Warn on Forecast System, and other similar products and tools)
  • Evaluate 3D mesonet configurations including site spacing, heterogeneous vs homogeneous instrumentation, profiling rates, etc.
  • Assess the impact of improved representation of the mesoscale environment via assimilation of mesoSCALES observations on capturing the mean and turbulence structure of the lower atmosphere in and around Tulsa (overlaps microSCALES objectives)


At minimum, participants interested in mesoSCALES should be capable of flying vertical profile flights (fixed wing or rotary wing profile flights are acceptable) and collecting meteorological measurements. Pressure, temperature, and moisture measurements are minimum requirements. Wind measurements are preferred, but not required for participation in mesoSCALES. Flights must be able to be completed at least hourly. For mesoSCALES cases, each mission’s operating procedure must be dependent upon the phenomena available to sample. A standard ‘handbook’ of operating procedures will be developed with an understanding of all participants’ capabilities prior to the beginning of the SCALES period. Any mesoSCALES mission will be operated from one of the handbook minimum expected procedures.


Leads: Adam Houston, James Pinto

Urbanization impacts the atmosphere in many ways. It can yield enhanced heating of the surface in areas altered by human activities, also known as the urban heat island (UHI). Urban, human-modified landscapes can modify the boundary layer leading to localized variations in atmospheric moisture, winds, and turbulence flow characteristics. These features generally occur on scales smaller than the mesoscale, posing challenges for observation and numerical representation. Human impacts are large in these settings. UHI can lead to higher daytime temperatures, reduced nighttime cooling, increased energy consumption for cooling, and subsequent poorer air quality. Risks to human comfort and health are vast: heat-related deaths outpace those by all other weather risks combined. At the same time, advances in Urban Air Mobility, which can improve quality of life, require  new weather guidance products that account for impacts of the urban landscape on winds and turbulence. Deploying observing platforms with microscale spatial coverage enables researchers to understand the extent, character, and evolution of urbanization impacts on atmospheric properties. However, surface-based measurements are insufficient to characterize the kinematic and thermodynamic impacts of urbanization. Doing so requires that we capture vertical profiles of key variables at several points in and around an urban region to provide a 3D assessment of lower-atmosphere structure and evolution, which is critically important to increase understanding of processes driving UHI, properly characterizing upscale influences of microscale processes on mesoscale phenomena, and validating high-resolution, high-fidelity large eddy simulations over urban regions. All of these outcomes are beneficial to urban air mobility concepts. Microscale atmospheric processes in urban environments must be well-understood, well-represented in high- resolution simulations, and well-predicted to enable safe and successful low-altitude autonomous flight. Flight Week offers the opportunity to deploy multiple UAS in and around the Tulsa metropolitan area and to:

  • Sample UHI impacts on atmospheric stability to explain observed patterns in deep convection near urban areas
  • Sample impacts of urban landscapes on variations in wind and turbulence characteristics 
  • Utilize a combination of vertical profiling and horizontal transects to derive turbulence measurements in the urban environment
  • Characterize the diurnal evolution of the urban thermodynamic plume, the upwind urban-rural boundary, and urban-center convergence
  • Contribute to development of datasets to support validation of high-resolution, building-resolving large eddy simulation models
  • Contribute urban perspectives to a larger 3-D mesonet concept, including but not limited to the assessment of the impact improved representation of the mesoscale environment via assimilation of mesoSCALES observations may have on capturing the mean and turbulence structure of the lower atmosphere in and around Tulsa (overlaps mesoSCALES objectives)

At minimum, participants interested in microSCALES should be capable of flying horizontal transects AND/OR vertical profiles and collecting meteorological measurements. Different objectives will have different needs, but generally, pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind measurements are minimum requirements. Both high-rate and low-rate observations will be needed to support microSCALES objectives; however, different objectives will require different operating procedures and flight patterns, which will be collaboratively designed based on participant capabilities and final deployment siting.

Back To Top
SVG directory not found.