Archive for June, 2013

We are preparing to launch a brand new project as part of the ASTRA initiative. MAVIS (Massive Atmospheric Volume Instrumentation System), funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (grant no. EP/K035037/1) will develop a new atmospheric sensing system based on the following concept: a fleet of small, very light, instrumented gliders are released en masse from a high altitude meteorological balloon over the environment to be observed. During their autopilot-guided descent along paths optimized for sampling efficiency, they collect a dense set of readings, which can subsequently be converted into an accurate map of the quantity being observed.

Building on existing balloon-launched sensorcraft developed as part of ASTRA, MAVIS will take the concept to becoming a system ready to be deployed on large scale science missions.

In collaboration with our colleagues at SAMS, as well as with our project partners (the MetOffice, NCAS, and the British Antarctic Survey) we will design, build and demonstrate a system capable of mapping atmospheric variables across a broad altitude range and at a relatively low cost.

To achieve this, we will be offering a job opportunity to a Research Fellow on a three year fixed term contract, starting in the autumn. More details and a formal advert soon – meanwhile, if interested, please send informal inquiries to Dr Andras Sobester (first initial dot surname at soton.ac.uk).


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Scientists from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) set the following challenge: design an ocean drifter (an instrument package used to chart surface currents on the ocean), which can be deployed from a long distance, without the need for expensive research vessels.

Responding to this requirement, fourth year students from the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, supervised by ASTRA staff and PhD students, designed and built a prototype glider, which, carrying the instrumented buoy and its drogue in its fuselage, can be launched from a high altitude balloon. The glider, fitted with an autopilot (which doubles as the drifter’s on-board computer), flies to the target location, where, a few meters above the water it disintegrates, releasing the drifter.

The first ‘live’ deployment of the system is planned for later this summer.

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