The importance of aircraft stability in Commercial Flying and Remote Sensing Data collection

by M. Lorraine Tighe, PhD

I just traveled quite a distance to come to the Asian Geospatial Forum Conference in Malaysia on the new Dreamliner – 787. Six hours into the flight we had to back track to Anchorage to avoid an emergency landing in Russia, all because our flaps were not working. To accomplish a flapless landing the pilots had to speed up and drop down fast. In three or four minutes we descended about 5000 feet! They warned us, and I quote, “this is a serious but doable approach, remain calm and review the safety brochure.” The ability of the pilots to control or stabilize the aircraft to achieve a safe, albeit rough landing, got me thinking about our Lear jets used to collect interferometric synthetic aperture radar (IFSAR or InSAR) data. Ok, maybe I am a radar geek if that is what I am thinking about in an emergency landing?

In many cases, we fly in remote areas where there is little opportunity for us to deploy ground control, but still need to acquire high resolution data. How is it possible to achieve high resolution data collections without the deployment of in-scene ground control? The answer lies in the stability of our aircraft and our ability to precisely know where our two radar antennae are with respect to the ground we are mapping and our nominal flight trajectory (planned flight path).

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