Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Physics


Department of Engineering Physics

First Advisor

Steven T. Fiorino, PhD.


The Joint Precision Airdrop System has revolutionized military airdrop capability, allowing accurate delivery of equipment and supplies to smaller drop zones, from higher altitudes than was previously possible. This capability depends on accurate wind data which is currently provided by a combination of high-resolution forecast models and GPS dropsondes released in the vicinity of the dropzone shortly before the airdrop. This research develops a windprofiling algorithm to derive the needed wind data from passive IR satellite soundings, eliminating the requirement for a hazardous dropsonde pass near the drop zone, or allowing the dropsonde to be dropped farther from the dropzone. Atmospheric temperature measurements made by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) onboard the polar-orbiting Aqua satellite are gridded and filtered to create a three-dimensional temperature field surrounding a notional airdrop objective area. From these temperatures, pressure surfaces are calculated and geostrophic and thermal wind direction and magnitude are predicted for 25 altitudes between the surface and 500 mb level. These wind profiles are compared to rawinsonde measurements from balloon releases near the notional airdrop location and time of the satellite sounding. The validity of the satellite-derived wind profile is demonstrated at higher altitudes, but this method does not consistently predict wind velocity within the boundary layer. Future research which better accounts for surface friction may improve these results and lead to the single-pass airdrop capability desired by Air Mobility Command.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number