FAAM Airborne Laboratory Image National Centre for Atmospheric Science

Image:National Centre for Atmospheric Science

Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements Airborne Laboratory is based at Cranfield Airport

UK scientists will take to the skies on the largest flying laboratory in Europe to carry out crucial research into some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Such as climate change and severe weather events, thanks to £61 million government investment.

This investment, (announced on 20 November 2020), will enable the UK’s scientists and researchers to continue progressing environmental research missions at altitudes of up to 10 kilometres for the next 10 years on board the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) Airborne Laboratory.

FAAM operates a specially adapted research aircraft based at Cranfield Airport, Bedfordshire.

The aircraft enables the collection of data on emission and pollution levels from remote locations around the world, such as above the North Sea and volcanoes in Iceland.

Previous projects include searching for new sources of air pollutants during the Cape Verde dust season, measuring cloud atmospheres to improve weather forecasts, tracking the source of methane emissions in Africa and the Arctic to help combat global temperature rises.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

“Never has it been more exciting to be a scientist and nor have the challenges been greater.

“Facilities like the FAAM Airborne Laboratory help ensure the UK remains at the forefront of tackling the most enduring threat to our planet while also supporting our innovative and brilliant scientific community.”

The government’s £61 million funding will secure the aircraft’s operations for the next 10 years. It will be provided through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK government’s main agency for funding and managing research in the environmental sciences.

Head of the FAAM Airborne Laboratory, Mr Alan Woolley, said:

“We operate the largest flying laboratory in Europe and, through our experience and expertise, offer a complete package of support for in-situ atmospheric measurements.

“From measuring cloud microphysics to detecting complex chemical species, the aircraft is a highly capable flying laboratory.

“It is capable of operating nearly everywhere in the world and supports global research initiatives, helping scientists and society to tackle the environmental challenges ahead, including climate change, air pollution and severe weather.”

The atmospheric data captured during future air missions will directly assist the government, businesses, universities and researchers on the ground by informing future policy, transforming industries with high carbon emissions like shipping, and assessing the impact of new environment regulations.


Image: National Centre for Atmospheric Science

FAAM Airborne Laboratory at Cranfield Airport Image National Centre for Atmospheric Science