AER 103: Airborne Remote Sensing of Noctilucent Clouds


AER 103 provides a foundation in flight research. Students will learn how to integrate and test imagery systems to aircraft and then organize operational field campaigns and sorties using PoSSUM research aircraft to study noctilucent clouds in annual field campaigns based from High Level, AB. Students will train for one of two in-flight roles: navigator or instrument operator. Students will also participate in coordinated ground observation campaigns to facilitate tomographic reconstruction of airborne images. Students will learn to operate at high-altitudes (up to 23K’) in unpressurized aircraft. Transportation to High Level is organized from Edmonton, AB.


AER 103 provides a foundation in flight research as applied to the imagery of noctilucent cloud structures synchronized with ground and satellite observations.

Each program provides an immersive educational experience covering the following topics:

  • Integration and testing of imagery systems to research aircraft
  • Planning of operational field campaigns and sortie.
  • In-flight operations to image noctilucent cloud structures
  • High-altitide flight operations to FL230 in unpressurized aircraft
  • Coordination of Satellite and Ground observations
  • Image processing and data analysis


Mission Plan:

Sorties will be planned daily and waypoints, altitudes, and engine settings will be calculated based on AIM satellite ephemeris data, the solar position, and winds aloft. Missions will be flown when noctilucent cloud presence is verified through visual observation or through LiDAR detection.

Each mission will have: 1) pilot in command, 2) navigator, and 3) instrument technician and operator. Ground crew will consist of 1) mission flight director, 2) remote site camera operator, and 3) deputy remote site camera operator.

Missions flown synchronous with solar motion will be flown at FL180 for a duration of 90 minutes at altitude. Missions flown to intercept the AIM satellite will be flown at FL230 for a duration of 45 minutes.

Each student will have the opportunity to participate in a flight as well as a ground observation mission. Transportation to and from Edmonton, AB will be provided.

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