National Facility for Airborne Research

National Facility for Airborne Research

Project Director: Dr. C.G. Deshpande



  • Procurement of an instrumented aircraft for airborne atmospheric research.
  • Undertake cloud microphysics and aerosol observations during different seasons to study the cloud aerosol interactions over different parts of country.
  • Study cloud classification, rainfall and rain rate estimates in the tropical environment and to undertake randomized cloud seeding program for rain-enhancement.
  • Study interactions between clouds and large-scale environment by analysing the simultaneous measurements of cloud microphysical parameters and large scale meteorological parameters at high temporal resolution
  • Study the microphysical and dynamical characteristics of tropical clouds and interaction with aerosols.


About Us:

The research community in this country strongly felt a need for long term airborne measurements in respect of Aerosol sampling, measurement of cloud properties, cloud physics, Convective Tropical Convergence Zone (CTCZ), atmospheric chemistry, etc. to address all relevant scientific issues for improving the treatment of rain making processes in the monsoon environment in particular and other cloud-aerosol-radiative feedback mechanisms associated with the climate variability and change over India in times to come.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) is in the process of procuring a research aircraft as the National Facility for Airborne Research (NFAR) in the 12th five year plan (2012-17) and it will be managed by IITM, Pune. This aircraft will be used for all airborne atmospheric research in the country and is planned to be positioned at Aurangabad. Depending on the research objectives, the aircraft operations will be conducted from different bases in the country. The research aircraft will carry several state-of-the-art sophisticated scientific instruments. At Aurangabad airport, facilities for maintenance and repair of aircraft, development, installation, calibration and modifications of scientific instruments onboard will be made available in the hangar.


Project Details:

The airborne platform is projected as national facility which will cater the scientific need of several national research and educational institutions in the country. Following research activities/problems will be addressed at local/regional/national level:

  • Cloud Aerosol Interaction studies
  • Direct -Indirect aerosol effect
  • Air Pollution studies- Mega cities/Urban
  • Radiation studies
  • Coastal pollution studies
  • Urban visibility studies
  • Flood/ Forestry/ City modelling
  • Cloud microphysics and precipitation process studies

Aircraft Specifications:

  • Type of Aircraft : Twin engine turbo prop aircraft
  • Service ceiling : 30000 ft
  • Minimum lowest operating altitude: 500-1000 ft AMSL
  • Payload : 900 kg -1200 kg
  • Range at maximum payload: 2500 km
  • (Endurance ~ 5 hr @ max. payload)
  • Number of seats : 4-6
  • Cruising Speed: 200 - 220 knots
  • Sampling Speed: 80-120 m/s
  • Ascent rate :  400 - 500 ft /min

Atmospheric parameters to be measured

  • State parameters
  • Cloud Microphysics
  • Aerosols
  • Trace Gases
  • Radiation
  • Turbulence

To understand the atmospheric processes in the lower atmosphere, utilization of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is also explored. This will be an institutional activity under NFAR.

Developmental Activities:

  • The research aircraft to be procured involve two stages. Firstly, the aircraft and the airborne instruments will be manufactured and secondly, the aircraft will be integrated with all these state-of-art instruments. Also, testing at various stages will be conducted and certification will be done before starting the operational research Sorties.A single UAV instrumented with aerosol, radiation and meteorological parameters is in the process of procurement. In the later stages, it is also planned to equip different UAVs with different sets of instruments for aerosols, radiation, clouds, fluxes and trace gases.


  • Along with cloud microphysics instruments several aerosol, gas chemistry, radiation instruments, radar, lidar and dropsonde will be installed on-board for research purpose.
  • All these instruments will not be operated simultaneously. Actual suite of instruments to be loaded/ operated during a data collection flight will be fixed in the aircraft according to scientific objective of the program. However, it is not advisable to remove instruments (e.g., radar) that require factory settings/ alignment. Also, some are needed for all programmes.

A national level Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) will be formed to govern the research activity. Members of the SAC will be national experts in specific scientific field: such as microphysics, aerosols, chemistry, remote sensing, radiometers, etc. Also, some will be the flight operation experts, logistic experts, etc. SAC will be responsible for

  • Call and review scientific research proposals for airborne research from various research institutes/universities
  • Approve the proposed campaigns to be flown by NFAR
  • Select the best project when calendar conflicts
  • Advice for new research plans, instruments investments and all decisions which have an impact in the service of NFAR will be provided to the scientific community.

Utilization of Aircraft:

The research aircraft will be utilized throughout the year for different tasks such as

  • June- September: During Monsoon season over Indian land mass region and adjacent seas
  • October- November: Bay of Bengal for cyclone research
  • Dec. – May: Himalayan, North India for aerosol and BC measurement

Project Highlight:

NFAR is a very important national facility that MoES is trying to establish leading to improved forecast of rainfall required by farmers.

The data collected through various missions under NFAR activity and subsequent research carried out will be beneficial to Indian Climate research program, India Meteorological Department (IMD), National Centre for Medium Range Forecasting (NCMRWF) for improving the cloud microphysical schemes in the numerical models. Other national research institutions and several universities will be benefited by getting involved in the observational programs.

Recent Publications:

  • Harikishan G., B. Padmakumari, R.S. Maheskumar G. Pandithurai, Q. L. Min., Aerosol Indirect Effects from ground-based retrievals over the rain shadow region in Indian sub-continent,J. Geophys. Res., 121, doi: 10.1002/2015JD024577, February 2016.
  • MorwalS. B., S. G. Narkhedkar, B. Padmakumari, R. S. Maheskumar, J.R. Kulkarni, Intra-seasonal and Inter-annual variability of Bowen Ratio over rain-shadow region of North peninsular India, Theoretical & Appl. Meteorology,  DOI 10.1007/s00704-016-1745-6,  January 2016.     
  • AnupamHazra,  B.  Padmakumari,  R. S.  Maheskumar, Jen-Ping  Chen,  The effect of mineral dust and soot aerosols on ice microphysics near the foothills of the Himalayas: A numerical investigation, Atmospheric Research, 171, 41-55, doi: 10.1016/j.atmosres.2015.12.005,  December 2015.       
  • MorwalS. B., J. L. Brenguier , B. Padmakumari, R. S. Maheskumar, J.R. Kulkarni, Variability of monsoon intra-cloud and inter-cloud microphysics over Indian sub-continent, J. Geophys. Res., 120, doi: 10.1002/2015JD023533.  Nov 2015.
  • Narkhedkar S. G., S. B. Morwal, B. Padmakumari,C. G. Deshpande,  D. R. Kothawale, R. S. Maheskumar, J. R. Kulkarni.  Rainfall mechanism over the rain‑shadow region of north peninsular India, Climate Dynamics, Nov 2014, DOI 10.1007/s00382-014-2403-2, 1-20.                
  • Kulkarni, J. R., Morwal, S. B., Narkhedkar, S. G., Maheskumar, R. S., Padmakumari,  B.Sunitha Devi, S &Rajeevan, M., Unprecedented hailstorms over north peninsular India during February- March 2014. Journal of Geophysical Research, March 2015, DOI:10.1002/2015JD023093.     
  • Morwal S. B., S. G. Narkhedkar, B. Padmakumari, R. S. Maheskumar, , D. R. Kothawale, K. K. Dani, R. Burger1, R. T. Bruintjes2  and J. R. Kulkarni, Cloud  characteristics over the rain-shadow region of North Central peninsular India during monsoon withdrawal and post-withdrawal periods, Climate Dynamics, April 2015, DOI: 10.1007/s00382-015-2595-0.                    
  • Harikishan G., B. Padmakumari, R.S. Maheskumar, J.R. Kulkarni, Radiative effect of dust aerosols on cloud microphysics and meso-scale dynamics during monsoon breaks over Arabian sea, Atmospheric Environment, 105, Mar 2015, 22-31, DOI/10.1016/j.atmosenv.-2015.01.037.
  • Bhalwankar R., Deshpande C.G., Kamra A.K., Shape and oscillations of the water drops freely suspended in horizontal electric field: A wind tunnel study, Journal of Atmospheric and Solar Terrestrial Physics, 133, October 2015, DOI:10.1016/j.jastp.2015.09.004, 169-177
  • Deshpande C.G., Bhalwankar R., Padmakumari B., Maheskumar R.S., Axisa D., Kulkarni J.R., Possible evidence of new particle formation and its impact on cloud microphysics from airborne measurements over Bay of Bengal, Atmospheric Research, 140-141, February 2014, DOI:10.1016/j.atmosres.2014.01.014,1-13
  • Deshpande C.G., Kamra A.K., Physical properties of the arctic summer aerosol particles in relation to sources at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Journal of Earth System Science, 123, February 2014, 201-212
  • Harikishan G., B. Padmakumari, R.S. Maheskumar G. Pandithurai& Q. L. Min, Macro and micro physical properties of monsoon clouds over a rain shadow region in India from ground-based radiometric measurements, Journal of Geophysical Research, 2014, 119, DOI:10.1002/2013JD020872, 4736-4749.
  • Padmakumari B ., R. S. Maheskumar, G. Harikishan, S. B. Morwal, T. V. Prabha and J. R.Kulkarni,  In situ measurements of aerosol vertical and spatial distribution over continental India during the major drought year 2009, Atmospheric Environment, 80, August 2013, DOI:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2013.07.064,107-121                   
  • Maheskumar, R.S., Narkhedkar, S. G., Morwal, S.B., Padmakumari B.,  Kothawale D.R. ,  R. R. Joshi, R.R.,  Deshpande, C.G., Bhalwankar,R.V.,  Kulkarni , J.R., Mechanism of high rainfall over the Indian west coast region during the monsoon season, Climate Dynamics, October 2013,  DOI 10.1007/s00382-013-1972-9, 201.
  • Padmakumari B., R.S. Maheskumar, G. Harikishan, J.R. Kulkarni, and B.N. Goswami,  Comparative study of aircraft- and satellite-derived aerosol and cloud microphysical  parameters during CAIPEEX-2009 over the Indian region,International Journal of Remote Sensing,Vol. 34, No. 1, 358–373, 2013.
  • B. Padmakumari, R. S. Maheskumar, S. B. Morwal, G. Harikishan, MahenKonwar, J. R. Kulkarni and B. N. Goswami, Aircraft observations of elevated pollution layers near the foothills of the Himalayas during CAIPEEX-2009, Quarterly Journal of Royal Meteorological Society, DOI:10.1002/qj.1989, 1-14,  2013.


Project Director: Dr. C.G. Deshpande, Scientist-E

  • Dr. C.G. Deshpande, Sci-E
  • Dr. B. Padmakumari, Sci-E
  • Dr. R.S. Maheskumar, Sci-D

Associates : Dr. S. G. Narkhedkar, Sci-D