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Battelle Brings National Science Foundation’s Research Aircraft to Columbus for First-Ever Visit

Posted on Aug 5, 2019

Airplane plays key role in studying ecology in the United States

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Aug. 5, 2019)—Battelle employees and invited government and academic officials will have a unique opportunity to tour the research aircraft that crisscrosses the country collecting data for the National Science Foundation’s National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) program, managed by Battelle.

The NEON program collects ecological data from 81 different sites across the U.S. in an unprecedented 30-year initiative to take the pulse of, and understand, our ecosystem. This aircraft uses an array of instruments to collect high-resolution remote sensing data of those sites. 

The data are already being used by scientists for many different projects. Examples include a study by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory using plant community distributions and canopy biochemistry to understand watershed systems, a University of Wisconsin project building a library of vegetation types that links physical and biochemical traits to spectral data, and a Smithsonian Environmental Research Center project studying tree growth and the exchange of carbon, radiation and moisture between forests and the atmosphere.

“We’re proud of Battelle’s role in building and operating the NEON program,” said Battelle President and CEO Lou Von Thaer. “Although we have 81 different sites across the U.S., none of them are in Columbus, so we thought we’d bring one of our mobile platforms to our own backyard so people can learn more about this important work.”

The NEON Airborne Observation Platform (AOP) is an array of instruments installed into a light aircraft to collect high resolution remote sensing data. Airborne sensor operators in the aircraft use these sensors to collect low-altitude data at much higher resolution than a satellite and from broader areas than a handheld instrument could capture. Each collection flight lasts about 4.5 hours and collects about .75 terabytes of data.

Filling a critical hole in ecological data, standardized airborne data collection over the NEON field sites allows scientists to monitor changes in vegetation patterns and canopy chemistry on a continental scale over an extended time period. The data could provide new insights into how changes in land use impact forest health. It is also essential to helping researchers compare satellite-derived remote sensing data to ground-collected data.

The NEON project has three AOPs that are used to capture remote sensing data over NEON field sites and collect research-specific flight campaign data requested by the community. Flying 1,000 meters above ground level at 100 knots, the Twin Otter aircraft collect data using an imaging spectrometer, full waveform and discrete return lidar instruments, and a high-resolution digital camera.

A range of physical, biological and biochemical measurements are taken, including topography, canopy chemistry and vegetation structure. Information is available as both individual flight lines or mosaics that combine data from multiple passes over an area. The robust collection of aerial data, synchronized with data collected though tower sensors, soil sensors and observational field sampling on the ground at each site, is freely available on the NEON data portal.

Event Details for Media

Tuesday, Aug. 6 at 3 p.m.
The Ohio State University Airport, Don Scott Field
Knowlton Flight Center, Hangar #4
2160 W. Case Rd.
Columbus, Ohio 43235

Arrive at 3 p.m. for a short informational program beginning at 3:15 p.m. Battelle CEO
Lou Von Thaer will welcome guests, and Battelle scientists and pilots will show off this complex research plane. Light refreshments will be served. 

Media please RSVP to Katy Delaney at delaneyk@battelle.org or 614-424-7208.

About Battelle

Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to solving what matters most. At major technology centers and national laboratories around the world, Battelle conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products, and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio since its founding in 1929, Battelle serves the national security, health and life sciences, and energy and environmental industries. For more information, visit www.battelle.org. 

Media Contact

For more information contact Katy Delaney at (614) 424-7208 or at delaneyk@battelle.org or contact T.R. Massey at (614) 424-5544 or at masseytr@battelle.org.

Media Contacts

Katy Delaney
Director, Media Relations
Office: 1.614.424.7208
Email: delaneyk@battelle.org 


T.R. Massey

Senior Media Specialist
Office: 1.614.424.5544 
Email: masseytr@battelle.org