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COmmunity heavy-PAyload Long endurance Instrumented Aircraft for Tropospheric Research in Environmental and Geo-Sciences

Periodic Report Summary 2 - COPAL (COmmunity heavy-PAyload Long endurance Instrumented Aircraft for Tropospheric Research in Environmental and Geo-Sciences)

Project context and objectives:

Origins of the COPAL project:

European facility for airborne research (EUFAR) is the network of aircraft operators for research in environmental and geo-science. As part of the EUFAR activity on the future of the fleet, the European Science Foundation (ESF) completed a survey of the scientific demand in 2006. Among the 6 options that were suggested by ESF, the majority of the 203 responses supported as the first priority for the development of the fleet: 'A European medium-altitude / heavy-payload / long-endurance research aircraft, for atmosphere / low-troposphere campaigns (in multi-disciplinary / multi-national settings): a turboprop aircraft (Lockheed C130, Airbus A400M)'.

A proposal was thus submitted to European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) for the construction of a pan-European instrumented aircraft for tropospheric research, indicating that two options had to be considered: a Lockheed C130 and an Airbus A400M.

After the selection of the proposal by ESFRI in October 2006, a proposal was submitted to the European Commission (EC) at the first Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) call for infrastructures in May 2007 for the construction of a heavy-payload and long endurance research aircraft for tropospheric research, indicating that three options were considered: a Lockheed C130 and an Airbus A400M, and a CASA-295.

The objectives of the COPAL project, distributed over six work-packages (WPs), are:
- to acquire, modify and equip for research a heavy-payload (10 tons) and long endurance (10 hours) aircraft for research in the lower and middle troposphere;
- propose a legal structure for joint management of the COPAL aircraft (WP2);
- quantify the costs for procurement, refurbishing, modification for research, certification, and operation of the COPAL aircraft (WP3);
- designate the aircraft operator and scientific operator of the COPAL aircraft (WP4);
- constitute a network of academic laboratories and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) for development, maintenance and operation of research instrumentation (WP5);
- define the governance model for access proposals evaluation and allocation of flight time (WP6).

Project results:

Work performed and results achieved since the beginning of the project:

WP1 - Management and coordination (WP leader: National Centre for Meteorological Research (CNRM))

- Organisation of meetings

Annual meetings have been organised to gather the COPAL members and discuss the project. The steering committee (SC) meeting aims to propose decisions to be approved later by the governing board (GB). A final joint SC and GB meeting has been organised in March 2011. The report of the meeting is available.

- Communication

In order to further communicate on the project, the office prepared posters and leaflets that have been distributed in research-related events (like conferences, meetings...).

For instance, COPAL had a stand at the International Conference on Airbourne Research for the Environment (ICARE) in Toulouse, in October 2010. In April 2011, COPAL was present with EUFAR at the European Geoscience Union (EGU) in Vienna.

- Coordination with EUFAR and international organiSations

In order to ensure coordination with EUFAR, EUFAR / COPAL joint meetings are organised for the partners to have an update on each other project and to exchange information. At the final meeting, the EUFAR WP leaders attended the meeting.

The COPAL office members participate actively to the preparatory phase coordination committee (ePPCC) and to the preparatory phase projects workshops organised by the EC. In the fourth year, COPAL attended two workshops organised by the EC as part of ESFRI meetings (June in Brussels and September in Amsterdam).

WP2 - Legal structure (WP leader: S. J. Berwin)

- Second report on legal organisation and governance

Though S. J. Berwin advised that the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) which could be the best suited legal organisation for COPAL, the COPAL partners are not ready to commit to such an integrated legal structure. At the third governing board meeting, the partners agree to set up one legal structure to manage both the future COPAL aircraft and the open access scheme. The model legal structure was to be decided in the fourth year.

At the final meeting (in March 2011), the partners decided to set up a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to keep the momentum of the project and to act as a framework during the transition phase (after the end of the preparatory phase).The MoU 'to continue promoting and developing European airborne scientific research in environmental and geo-sciences' has been signed by nine partners in September 2011.

Besides the work performed by S. J. Berwin, the COPAL office members participated to various meetings on research infrastructures organized by the EC.

WP3 - Aircraft specifications and construction costs (WP leader: INTA)

- Aircraft construction costs

One of the main issues of the project is the determination of the costs of the research aircraft. In order to refine the costs, aircraft manufacturers have been asked to provide further quotations. Also, during this third year, a quotation was received for a new C-130 J. In the fourth year, the WP leader made a summarisation work regarding this WP with a forward look on the work to be performed in the future.

WP4 - Operation and logistics (WP leader: Committee of International Trade (INTA))

- Second draft reports on aircraft operation and on data management operation has been published. The operators will be recruited when the decision to purchase the aircraft is made.

In the fourth year, the WP leader made a summarisation work regarding this WP with a forward look on the work to be performed in the future.

WP5 - Instrumentation development (WP leader: Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI))

-Surveys and reports on the following:

- Inventory of existing airborne instruments
A questionnaire was prepared in the first year for the instrument operators to express their interest in contributing to the COPAL aircraft instrumentation and to indicate what the conditions would be for access to these instruments. The COPAL partners distributed the questionnaire to their local network of scientific operators of instrumentation, in the second year. In total, 80 measurement systems have been proposed. The partners considered in the third year that the work performed by FMI was sufficient for the moment.

- Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and laboratories to be involved in instrument development
The aim of this task is to survey the SMEs and laboratories which could contribute with their instruments or know-how to COPAL. A questionnaire was sent by the COPAL members to their national network and resulted in fourteen answers. In the third year, no new answers have been received. In the fourth year, a few more answers have been received. The WP leader then compiled all the answers in a document with conclusions regarding this activity and its possible impact in the future.

WP6 - Scientific governance (WP leader: NERC)

- Final report for a COPAL model for evaluation of access proposals and allocation processes
In the second year, the document describing the evaluation criteria was distributed to the partners for approval. In the third year, the part describing how national procedures will interact with the COPAL one has been presented in a very complete report (D6.2.2). In the fourth year, the work focused on the definition of the open access scheme. A best practice guide was drafted and the way to implement this scheme is part of work to be performed according to the MoU signed in September 2011.

Potential impact:

COPAL preparatory phase (PP)

During the PP (end on 31 October 2011) surveys and studies have been performed to evaluate the technical feasibility and the costs of the aircraft project. It has been concluded that the technical feasibility of the construction of such an aircraft is not an issue. The main bottleneck for the implementation of the project is the lack of national commitments for investment.

After the PP, there will be a transition phase, managed on the basis of a MoU 'to continue promoting and developing European airborne scientific research in environmental and geo-sciences'. This MoU has been signed by nine partners.

The interim legal structure will have two main objects:

- to pursue the objectives of the COPAL preparatory phase;
- to implement open access to demonstrate and prepare for the efficient operation of the COPAL aircraft.

What is open access?

All researchers would get access on equal terms to a large fleet of instrumented aircraft irrespective of their institutional affiliation and of which country operates the aircraft. Equal terms means that access proposals are selected based on scientific merit only and that financial issues related to the aircraft operation are managed at the institutional level.

Benefits of the open access scheme:

- to develop the user base in the countries with no research aircraft;
- to facilitate the transfer of knowledge to the scientists from these countries.