Dr Rick Thomas

Dr Rick Thomas, a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham, describes in 60 seconds his use of unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly referred to as drones) to carry out atmospheric research.

60 seconds with Rick Thomas

My name is Rick Thomas and I am a Senior Research Fellow here at the University of Birmingham. My work involves using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), often referred to as drones, for atmospheric research. A key advantage of UAVs is the ability to fly in areas where it may be difficult or dangerous to use manned aircraft.

Recently, I travelled with a team of scientists to Ascension Island, a volcanic island in the southern Atlantic, where we remotely piloted a UAV weighing only 8kg to take air samples from 9,000ft above the island. The UAV gave us a safe, highly efficient, and cheap way to measure the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the air above this remote location; helping us to develop a better understanding of global drivers of climate.

Our aim is to further enhance the technological capabilities of UAVs and their instruments, and, more importantly, to develop the methodology to safety deploy these aircraft. By complementing measurements from surface stations, manned aircraft and satellites, we stand to fill a vital observation gap and revolutionize environmental monitoring.

Dr Rick Thomas' profile