Air New Zealand Partners With NASA To Collect Climate Data

Air New Zealand will start using one of their Q300 aircraft to collect weather data. The airline will start collaborating with a number of institutions, including NASA. The aim is to better predict severe storms and monitor climate change impacts.

Air New Zealand is going to join forces with NASA to help collect weather data. Photo: Air New Zealand via Facebook.

Air New Zealand joins forces with NASA

The kiwi airline will fit a Q300 aircraft with next-generation Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers later in 2020. These receivers will serve as scientific black boxes, gathering information to help predict storms and aid climate change research.

Air New Zealand is hopping into the climate change research business via an agreement between NASA, the University of Michigan and the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The University of Auckland will process the data gathered on the Q300 flights.

Air New Zealand will fit one of their Q300 aircraft with a satellite receiver box. Photo: Ben via Flickr.

Flying across Aotearoa, Air New Zealand believes the Q300 is the ideal aircraft to do this work. Chief Operational Integrity and Standards Officer Captain David Morgan said in a statement;

“Our Q300s cruise at 16,000 feet – much closer to the land and sea than NASA’s satellites. Placing receivers on aircraft will enhance the resolution and quality of information, giving scientists an unprecedented view over our entire network, from Kerikeri to Invercargill.

“As an airline, we’re already seeing the impact of climate change, with flights impacted by volatile weather and storms. Climate change is our biggest sustainability challenge so it’s incredible we can use our daily operations to enable this world-leading science.”

How it works

Data Air New Zealand collects will be feed into NASA’s GNSS. This cutting edge system is a collection of eight satellites that measures wind speeds over oceans. The GNSS measures signals conveyed to the satellites, such as GPS, that bounce off different ocean surfaces. This information helps predict and understand severe weather events such as cyclones.

NASA hopes to soon extend the satellite’s measuring capabilities to include dry land. They already know that satellites can measure things such as soil moisture. This can be used as a predictor of erosion, floods and droughts.

Understanding and predicting severe weather has benefits for both Air New Zealand and wider society. Photo: Phillip Capper via Wikimedia Commons.

NASA’s satellites orbit the tropical storm belt with coverage down to 38 degrees latitude. The information coming from Air New Zealand’s Q300 will help NASA in several ways.

Firstly, NASA satellites have good coverage over the northern half of New Zealand, meaning there will be overlap between the NASA data and Air New Zealand’s data, providing for a degree of validation.

Secondly, there will be regular comparisons of the data over the long term, further validating the integrity of the collected data.

Finally, over the longer term, it is hoped this data will help detect climate change.

Benefits for Air New Zealand and wider society

Peter Crabtree, the General Manager of Science and Innovation at New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said;

“Through this partnership, Air New Zealand’s world-class engineers, and researchers across New Zealand will have the opportunity to work with NASA on a mission that will advance global understanding of the impacts of climate change.”

While there is a wider societal good to Air New Zealand’s collaboration with NASA, it also makes short term sense for Air New Zealand.

Airlines are vulnerable to weather events, particularly storms and cyclones. Besides posing a possible danger to aircraft, they can disrupt flights and economically impact the airline. The better position Air New Zealand is in to predict and understand extreme weather, the better off the airline will be.