THIS MARCH, A truck pulled onto a runway in Oregon, towing a miniature plane for a test flight. At 650 pounds, the plane was too large to be a toy, but too small to fit a pilot.
That’s because the ArcticShark isn’t a toy, and it doesn’t need a pilot. It’s a drone. Department of Energy scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory commissioned its design in order to fly over the Alaska North Slope to take data in the Arctic atmosphere.
As it flies through the air at a modest 75 miles per hour, the drone will measure the size of atmospheric particles, levels of infrared radiation, humidity, wind direction, and more—measurements that will help scientists understand basic atmospheric processes like how clouds form, which they could eventually apply to climate models.