Pratt Acquires New Research Helicopter

Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering has acquired a new turbine-powered helicopter that will give the university and nation a new platform of research sensors to bridge a gap in airborne studies of natural and man-made atmospheric processes. Visit URL: hop.pratt.duke.edu

Professor Roni Avissar, chairman of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, accepted the Bell 206 Jet Ranger at the Bell Helicopter plant in Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 24, and flew it to Heli-Dyne Systems Inc., in nearby Hurst, Texas to be painted in Duke colors and outfitted with radio and navigation systems and other equipment.

Avissar, a helicopter pilot, said he expects to fly the aircraft to Duke in late February.

The helicopter is a Bell 206B-3 that will carry specialized instrument pods attached to its belly to help answer specific scientific questions in atmospheric research, ecology, hydrology and oceanography. The helicopter will bridge the gap currently existing between fast and high-flying airplanes, satellite observations and balloon and sounding rocket measurements.

“The advantage of the helicopter with pods is that it combines a slow sampling speed, needed for many kinds of research, with a long duration at the designated sampling area,” Avissar said earlier this year. “In addition, a helicopter can fly safely at very low altitudes, and it can operate in remote areas, even from ships, without requiring long transit time. Such a platform is currently not available for research applications anywhere.”

The helicopter’s first mission will be to detect atmospheric aerosols to gain more information on atmospheric chemical and physical processes that are critical in models used to predict the weather and climate.

Research targets include sea salt particle formation; production of particles in marine conditions and near forests; powerplant plumes; particle and gas transport from the troposphere into the boundary layer; and urban pollution.