Are estimates of wind characteristics based on measurements with Pitot tubes and GNSS receivers mounted on consumer-grade unmanned aerial vehicles applicable in meteorological studies?

Environ Monit Assess. 2017 Sep;189(9):431. doi: 10.1007/s10661-017-6141-x. Epub 2017 Aug 3.


The objective of this paper is to empirically show that estimates of wind speed and wind direction based on measurements carried out using the Pitot tubes and GNSS receivers, mounted on consumer-grade unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), may accurately approximate true wind parameters. The motivation for the study is that a growing number of commercial and scientific UAV operations may soon become a new source of data on wind speed and wind direction, with unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution. The feasibility study was carried out within an isolated mountain meadow of Polana Izerska located in the Izera Mountains (SW Poland) during an experiment which aimed to compare wind characteristics measured by several instruments: three UAVs (swinglet CAM, eBee, Maja) equipped with the Pitot tubes and GNSS receivers, wind speed and direction meters mounted at 2.5 and 10 m (mast), conventional weather station and vertical sodar. The three UAVs performed seven missions along spiral-like trajectories, most reaching 130 m above take-off location. The estimates of wind speed and wind direction were found to agree between UAVs. The time series of wind speed measured at 10 m were extrapolated to flight altitudes recorded at a given time so that a comparison was made feasible. It was found that the wind speed estimates provided by the UAVs on a basis of the Pitot tube/GNSS data are in agreement with measurements carried out using dedicated meteorological instruments. The discrepancies were recorded in the first and last phases of UAV flights.

Keywords: GNSS; Izera Mountains; Pitot tube; Poland; Unmanned aerial vehicle; Wind measurement.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Meteorology / methods*
  • Poland
  • Wind*