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Cold atom gravimetry airborne campaign


Vatnajoekull ice cap
Vatnajoekull ice cap

What was the purpose of the Cold atom gravimetry airborne campaign?

The test flights of the ONERA cold atoms instrument GIRAFE, modified for airborne measurements, was carried out as a follow-up to the CryoVEx campaign conducted in 2017. Though the campaigns were not related, the opportunity was taken to use the same aircraft, supporting navigation, positioning equipment and power racks of DTU Space.

The campaign took place across Iceland, using a Twin Otter DHC-6 from Norlandair, Akureyri, and consisted of repeat flights in northern Iceland and a small demonstration survey pattern over the Vatnajoekull ice cap.

The Iceland flight campaign was the first ever attempted airborne gravity survey using cold atom matter-wave gravimetry, and given the challenges of installation of equipment, and turbulent flights over rugged topography, it was a highly successful demonstration campaign.

What was the outcome of the Cold atom gravimetry airborne campaign?

GIRAFE instrument
GIRAFE instrument

Airborne gravity measurements and survey with a cold atom sensor were demonstrated for the first time. The main advantage of this technology is that it provides absolute measurements (no drift and no calibration needed). The precision of the gravity measurements were estimated thanks to comparison on a forward and backward line and to differences at crossing points. Measurement errors ranging from 2 to 4 mGal were obtained. The airborne gravity measurements were also compared to upward continued ground truth. The standard deviation on the difference ranged from 3 to 6 mGal.

These results show the maturity of cold atom technology for onboard application and support the development of cold atom sensors for measuring Earth's gravity field from space.

Download the Cold atom gravimetry airborne campaign final report

Learn more about the Cold atom gravimetry campaign in this Journal of Geodesy paper

Campaign Summary
Data Coverage (Year)2017
Release DateJuly 2023
Geographic SiteNorthern Iceland and over the Vatnajoekull ice cap
Field of ApplicationGravimetry / Geodesy
Data Size172MB

Digital Object Identifier: European Space Agency, 2017, Cold atom gravimetry airborne campaign,


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