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The lack of quantitative characterization of aerosol particles and their loading in the atmosphere is one of the greatest uncertainties in climate-change science. Improved instrumentation capable of determining the size and shape of aerosol particles is needed in efforts to reduce this uncertainty. We describe a new instrument carried by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that images free-floating aerosol particles in the atmosphere. Using digital holography, the instrument obtains the images in a non-contact manner, resolving particles larger than ten micrometers in size in a sensing volume of approximately three cubic centimeters. The instrument, called the holographic aerosol particle imager (HAPI), has the unique ability to image multiple particles freely entering its sensing volume from any direction via a single measurement. The construction of HAPI consists of 3D printed polymer structures that enable a sufficiently low size and weight that it may be flown on a commercial-grade UAV. Examples from field trials of HAPI show images of freshly emitted tree pollen and mineral dust.
Kemppinen, O., Laning, J. C., Mersmann, R. D., Videen, G., & Berg, M. J. (2020). Imaging atmospheric aerosol particles from a UAV with digital holography. Scientific Reports, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-72411-x