Instrument Development and Education in Airborne Science Phase 4 - NSF/NCAR C130 (N130AR)

10/17/2011 - 11/18/2011

NCAR's Earth Observing Laboratory and the University of Wyoming are announcing the start of a three year program to provide opportunities for flight testing of improved instrumentation for airborne research. The program is called Instrument Development and Education in Airborne Science (IDEAS) and its goal is to improve the capability of instrumentation for future National Science Foundation (NSF) airborne deployments and to provide opportunities for students to learn about observational science.

IDEAS phase 4 (IDEAS-4) includes three phases for instrumentation testing on three research aircraft: the NSF/NCAR C-130 (2011),  the University of Wyoming King Air (2012) and the NSF/NCAR GV aircraft (2013).

This solicitation is for IDEAS-2011 Phase I on the NSF/NCAR C-130.

Program Timeline (Phase I)

1 May 2011 Deadline for receipt of proposals
1 June 2011 Selection of instruments announced
1 July 2011 Installation documentation for wing-mounted instruments provided to RAF
1 August 2011 Installation documentation for cabin-mounted instruments provided to the RAF
1 September 2011 Start upload of instruments
17 October - 18 November Instrument testing flights
1 May 2012 Final archive data from IDEAS-2011 distributed to web site.


Program Description

IDEAS includes three phases for instrumentation testing on three research aircraft: the NSF/NCAR C-130 (2011), the NSF/NCAR GV aircraft, and the University of Wyoming King Air (2012-13).   Planning for the IDEAS-2011 test period on the C-130 is currently underway, although requests for instrument testing on the other two aircraft are also being solicited.

IDEAS 2011 will conduct research flights, originating from EOL-s Research Aviation Facility (RAF) at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan airport in Broomfield, CO between 17 October and 18 November, 2011 in both clear and cloudy conditions to test community, NCAR and RAF instruments. A short flight to maritime conditions is also planned to provide contrasting cloud and chemical conditions.  The total of 25 flight hours is available for the program in 2011. Approximately one 3- to 6-hour flight is planned per week. Data review, instrumentation modifications and flight planning will occur between flights.

The C-130 will measure state parameters (temperature, pressure, humidity), winds, aircraft position and attitude, cloud particle spectra and other ancillary parameters in addition to the data collected by the instruments undergoing testing. These data can be displayed in real time in flight, and investigators can have access to variables for recording on their own systems. Data recorded on the RAF data system will be processed and made available shortly after a flight. Many of the measurements can also be relayed to the ground during the flight for display in real time via satellite communication equipment. Real-time communication between investigators on the ground and the aircraft, as well as remote control of instruments from the ground is also possible. The combination of real time data access and communication between the C-130 and ground based support teams enables group participation in research flights.

Some of the flights will take place in the vicinity of the CHILL radar, which will allow coordinated flights with the radar, providing additional opportunities for radar and instrument comparisons and student projects involving both in situ and remote sensing measurements.

Eligibility and Instrumentation

Due to the limitations on the use of the NSF funded aircraft, flight testing for the primary purpose of developing commercial instrumentation is excluded. Exceptions can be made if the instrument is being tested for the purpose of evaluating its performance for purchase by NCAR or UW or to determine the instrument-s suitability for a specific planned NSF field deployment. In any event, the primary purpose of the testing must not be for commercial development purposes.  Requests for instrument testing and student participation will be evaluated by a panel of specialists in airborne measurements and approved based upon the feasibility of the installation and the criteria listed below.  More information is available by contacting the RAF and University of Wyoming facility managers.

Instruments proposed for IDEAS will be selected for testing based upon how well they meet the following criteria:

  • Need for this instrumentation for specific NSF field campaigns.  Preference will be given to instruments for field projects that are approved or well along in the review/planning process.
  • Likelihood of instrument-s use by the community in future NSF campaigns.
  • Likelihood of the instrument being ready for testing, such as addressing how the RAF certification guidelines will be handled.
  • Demonstrated benefit to an existing NSF grant.
  • Relevance of instrumentation to unmet needs in the US airborne research fleet.
  • Willingness of the requestor to provide unrestricted data from the instrument to the data archive.  Preliminary data will be shared among IDEAS participants.
  • Broader impacts of the instrument request, such as benefits to education of students in new technologies.

Limited support for installation on the aircraft is provided by NCAR or the University of Wyoming. The proposing institution is responsible for assuring that the instruments meet the RAF installation guidelines. Please also familiarize yourself with the scale of the effort to comply with certification requirements by reviewing the sample documentation packages. These documentation packages are required for the GV and C130 aircraft. For instruments proposed for the University of Wyoming aircraft, these documents provide overall examples of the materials needed for approval, and  proposers should disucss their installation with the UW facility manager prior to submitting the request.

Student Participation in Flights

Student participation in general is targeted at higher education students, especially those who may have an interest in a career related to airborne science. Other student participation will be considered on a lower priority basis. Faculty members teaching related classes (e.g., instrumentation, air pollution, meteorology, etc.) are welcome to propose measurement needs for class projects using data collected for students during IDEAS.

A limited number of instrument operators can be accommodated on each flight, depending on the final payload configuration.

In-flight participation for the students is also part of IDEAS, provided the student is able and willing to operate instrumentation and data systems after suitable instruction by NCAR scientists and technicians. The purpose of the student participation is to learn about the operation, maintenance, calibration and data processing techniques from the instrumentation.  NCAR instrumentation specialists and others participating in the program are expected to serve as mentors for student participants for this purpose.


This program provides a no-cost flight time to selected instrument developers. No other support is provided or implied.

Reimbursement of travel costs and instrument construction costs is not provided by this program. It is expected that such costs will be covered by the institution applying for inclusion in the test flights. No funds are available for student support. Participating students must arrange their own transportation, lodging, etc. through their educational institution.


Principal Investigators:

Project Manager:

  • Jorgen Jensen NCAR/RAF

Data Manager: