Friday, 09 December 2016 10:07

Airborne Research Australia soars with new benefactor

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The Hackett Foundation has donated more than $1 million to Airborne Research Australia (ARA) ARA to invest in new scientific instrumentation and capabilities, as well as specialist staff to map the Earth.

ARA  operates two of the world’s seven custom-built HK36TTC ECO-Dimona aircraft, each with pods and pylons under the wings that hold specialist measuring instruments such as LiDAR, hyperspectral, thermal infrared or methane and other atmospheric sensors.

ARA claims that these sensing tools allow it to make unprecedented details measurements of environmental processes. ARA uses these sensors to collect and process information to detect environmental change, locate objects and even identify different surfaces and materials.

ARA director and chief scientist Professor Jorg Hacker, who holds a Professorial Chair in Airborne Research at Flinders University, said the Hackett Foundation donation would provide outstanding research support and allow ARA to pursue new and exciting research opportunities.

“The future possibilities and opportunities for airborne research are limitless and exciting. We are grateful for and honoured by the foresight and wisdom shown by the Hackett Foundation in supporting our airborne capabilities and our research.”

ARA claims that its capabilities and approach to airborne environmental research and monitoring are unmatched worldwide in terms of the available sensing toolkit combined with what is says are the most cost-effective, flexible and clean airborne platforms available today operated by a small team of multi-talented specialists. To build up such a capability in South Australia was only possible through philanthropic and other support, starting with the late Joyce and Don Schultz of Glen Osmond to the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith Trust, as well as the Commonwealth and especially the ARC LIEF grant programme.

Entrepreneur Simon Hackett said the Hackett Foundation was proud to support ARA to reach the next stage of its development. “We feel it’s a valuable contribution to assist Jorg and his team to perform this vital measurement work for the environment. It is such a unique facility and such a tremendous opportunity for our state and nation.

“When you look at all the environmental issues out there and those yet to come, it is clear we will need the best science underpinned by the best data to understand and effectively manage our environment. ARA continues to do great science that I believe has profound implications for all of us. The wonderful result of ARA’s activities is that it also gets people excited about science, technology and flying,” he added.

ARA

Professor Hacker and Simon Hackett under a Eco-Dimona "manned" glider.

Hacker said, "To study the environment, one should use a platform that does not affect the environment by flying over it. Being essentially (manned) motorgliders with modern very quiet and clean engines using unleaded petrol, these aircraft leave a minimal footprint during research flights making it possible to map even the most sensitive environment without disturbing it and/or its inhabitants such as protected areas of the Great Barrier Reef or World Heritage Areas in southern Tasmania or the Kimberley in Western Australia."

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