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NASA Pilots Fly U-2 ‘Spy Plane’ Civil Variant for Polar Data Collection

DroneLaunchCarrierTwo NASA research pilots separately flew a civil variant of the U-2 military reconnaissance aircraft last week to study diminishing sea-ice levels in the Arctic region, Alaska Dispatch News reported Thursday.

Dermot Cole writes that pilots Tim Williams and Daniel Steele took turns flying the ER-2 jet to 60,000 feet and providing assistance from the ground for NASA’s polar climate change research project.

The Lockheed Martin-built aircraft will aim to complete up to 48 hours of environmental flight missions through the end of July.

ER-2 is built with the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar instrument that works to record observations on water, ice and forests, according to ADN.

Cole reports that NASA intends to use Lidar data to build technology that could handle ice and water surface elevation studies.

NASA glaciologist Kelly Brunt told the publication that the agency wants to develop computer programs to aid a 2017 satellite-based analysis of polar ice shelves.

“Now we want to see what the summer ice looks like in our laser signal, what water looks like on the surface of ice in our laser return,” Brunt said, according to ADN.

“We’re trying to see if there’s any penetration of the signal in the melt ponds or if it just bounces off the surface,” she added.

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