News, Science and Technology

New helicopter hovers into university’s hands

The Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) made a unique purchase this holiday season: a helicopter.

The Airbus helicopter will be transformed into a research vessel to make scientific observations, such as physical, chemical and biological processes that occur near the Earth’s surface. The helicopter was acquired in December, in part with funding from a $700,000 grant from the Batchelor Foundation.

The helicopter observation platform (HOP) is the first of its kind and could take flight as soon as this summer. Leading the project, Kenny Broad, chair of the marine affairs and policy program, and Roni Avissar, RSMAS dean, will pilot the HOP during expeditions.

“It’s probably the most exciting thing that I’ve seen so far because it is a novel approach and, undoubtedly, it will provide answers to major scientific issues that we have not been able to address so far,” Avissar said.

Broad said the helicopter can measure all sorts of processes important for understanding our climate, such as absorption of carbon dioxide by plants and the ocean, and how life on earth functions. It will be used to explore remote areas as well.

The HOP is modeled after a prototype at Duke University, where Avissar chaired the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering before coming to the University of Miami.

“I proposed at that time to equip a helicopter with instruments and fly close to the ground’s surface low and slow in the atmosphere,” he said.

The HOP at UM will be like no other.

“Helicopters are used in the research. However, transforming a full helicopter to make it dedicated to full research is very unique and the first worldwide,” he said.

Much like with the research catamaran at RSMAS, excursions using the HOP will be dependent on funding from grants received from foundations as well as federal and state government.

Avissar submitted a grant application to NASA for about $28 million Friday that proposes using the HOP to revolutionize the way that carbon balance is measured in the United States.

“When it comes to predictions of climate change, there is still a major unknown as to how much carbon is being absorbed,” he said. “It remains a big, big project, and we have proposed to NASA a new approach based on the flexibility and uniqueness of the helicopter.”

The helicopter purchased by RSMAS has not yet been outfitted with all of the instruments required to transform it into the observation platform

“We are in the process of selecting the different navigation, communication, autopilot components, and painting that is going to go on that helicopter,” he said.

Once the ‘U’ logo finally adorns the HOP, it will be parked at a nearby airport. And at that point, both undergraduate and graduate students can expect to reap the benefits of this innovative resource.

“Students will definitely be involved in the research, and there are many ways,” Broad said.

Analyzing the data collected by the HOP or even going on the expeditions, in certain cases, are two examples.

“Something I would like to see is the university offering pilot training to students when not being used for research projects,” said sophomore Rick Thompson, who is majoring in marine science and geology.

Although its primary purpose is for environmental and atmospheric research, Avissar foresees the HOP also being used by the College of Engineering and Miller School of Medicine.

“I hope and anticipate that it will help us make additional connections with the medical school as well as engineering,” he said. “We will use it as the bridging instrument to make our connections with our colleagues across the university.”

Senior Emily Northrop, who is majoring in marine science and geology, said she is interested to see how the helicopter can be used for human health studies. She thinks that combined with the RSMAS wind tunnel, which can simulate hurricane winds, this is a huge step for the school.

“This, alongside the wind tunnel, must have other oceanographic institutions talking,” she said.

January 15, 2014

Reporters

Lyssa Goldberg

Lyssa Goldberg is online editor of The Miami Hurricane. She is a senior majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in math. She has interned at Mashable and the Miami New Times, and her work has also been featured in The Huffington Post.


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Most NBA mock drafts had Miami Hurricanes guard Davon Reed going late in the second round of Thursda ...

University of Miami shooting guard Davon Reed will gather with friends and family in Ewing, New Jers ...

University of Miami great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp announced on Tuesday that he pl ...

The University of Miami continues to make a hard push for five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley of ...

The University of Miami’s 2018 football recruiting class, already ranked the best in the country by ...

UM female scientists share some insight on women in science, science in Hollywood and how Wonder Wom ...

Read the latest entries from UM students who are spending part or all of their summer visiting diffe ...

UM Student Affairs Advocacy Coordinator Heather Stevens has been awarded the William Leftwich Award ...

President Julio Frenk makes the case for collaboration at eMerge Americas. ...

UM College of Engineering Dean Jean-Pierre Bardet and alumnus Rony Abovitz share the stage in a disc ...

Two outgoing Miami student-athletes, Shakima Wimbley and Gracie Lachowecki, have officially been nam ...

Miami Deputy AD/SWA Jennifer Strawley has been named a member of the WBCA Board of Directors, as ann ...

The Atlantic Coast and Big Ten Conferences announced Monday, the University of Miami men's bask ...

Three members of the University of Miami men's tennis players have been selected as All-ACC Aca ...

The University of Miami women's golf team had four individuals selected to the 2017 Atlantic Co ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.