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C. Using Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs) to Study the Environment

Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers at the University of California , San Diego 's Scripps Institution of Oceanography led 18 successful data-gathering missions over the Indian Ocean using instrument-bearing, unmanned aircraft vehicles, or UAVs. Scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan explains how these lightweight aircraft can be used to probe pollution particles in clouds.

Ramanathan: Pollution enters the atmosphere from below, then gets into the clouds, changes the clouds, produces more cloud drops, which in turn reflects sunlight and that impacts the climate. So, to study this problem, we need one aircraft flying below the cloud and one flying inside the cloud and the third aircraft above the cloud to see how this pollution goes through the clouds and changes the solar radiation field.

Narrator: Ramanathan predicts that five years from now, there will be hundreds possibly thousands of UAVs to probe how we are modifying or polluting the climate.

Ramanathan: This campaign was such a spectacular success. It established lightweight UAVs as the future to study the environment.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.