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CTEMPs pioneering development and technology support of fiber optic DTS serve a wide swath of oceanographers, atmospheric scientists, hydrologists, and others studying the earth. Through the course of over 50 CTEMPs deployments we have found that many of our clients require additional geospatial data, typically 3-D topography with better than 0.1m-scale lateral resolution. Our clients are also interested in imagery of surfaces and their temperatures (e.g., thermal infrared) including atmospheric turbulence, moisture, and air temperatures to make best use of their DTS data sets. Clearly these data would be valuable for geoscientists involved in many NSF-sponsored research efforts.
CTEMPs seeks to provide access to transformative technologies, and this demand from our users seemed ideally suited to our efforts. Access to technologies are almost entirely precluded by the classic triplet of obstacles: high cost of equipment, need for highly skilled operators (although for very short periods of time); and a major logistical obstacle of obtaining permits. This nexus of great opportunity, with high barriers to adoption led us to propose leveraging the current CTEMPs infrastructure to expand the mission to include the provision of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that can mobilize sensing platforms for researchers across the USA.
In exploring the options to address these needs it was clear that UAS deployable sensors are now well developed, and that Oregon State University (OSU) and the Univeristy of Nevada (UNR) were ideally situated to serve this role. Both Oregon and Nevada were designated by the FAA in 2013 as national UAS test sites. The test site selection process was rigorous and highly competitive with only six teams receiving awards across the US. The national test sites are designed to vastly streamline development, testing, and deployment of UAS-borne sensors. Both OSU and UNR have long histories of excellence in UAS projects, including having committed resources to advancing UAS research and development by hiring new faculty to build this program.