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global sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The sink/source strength of vegetated surfaces at
ground sites can now be estimated with reasonable accuracy and micrometeorological techniques are now well
established, while difficulties exist in up scaling these figures to the regional and global scales. Airborne measurement
of mass, momentum, and energy fluxes for boundary layer research has been available for decades requiring
the use of large aircraft to carry instruments and dedicated support facilities. The advent of compact, lowpower
instruments and high speed, high-capacity digital data acquisition systems has recently allowed small research
aircraft to perform such measurements with high accuracy. This paper first describes the Sky Arrow ERA
(Environmental Research Aircraft), a small research aircraft that has been recently developed in Italy, in the
frame of an international scientific collaboration. This aircraft can be operated to measure fluxes of mass, momentum
and energy while flying at low altitude and reduced ground speed. The fluxes are computed with the
airborne eddy correlation technique. The basic theory at the basis of the flux measurement technique is also described
in the paper, and two application examples are discussed to illustrate the quality and the accuracy of the
measurements that can be made using this research platform. Potential applications of those data to parametrize
land surface schemes, validate simulation models and provide extensive and reliable ground truthing for satellite
remote sensing applications are highlighted.
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