In the aerospace industry, there are two ways to collecting data: ModSim (modeling and simulation) or physical experiments. As discussed in previous articles, it can be very expensive in time and resources to design and execute a large experiment; to mitigate high costs, ModSim is often used to collect or create data that can be further used to train AI models, linear regressions, etc. But solid science is based on marrying the two; on one hand, while physical experiments can be used to validate numerical models, the data the experiments provide can be used to enhance and fine-tune existing modeling capabilities.

A multi-regime campaign

In a very rare instance, the large experiments (or “data campaigns”) do take place. To get the most “bang for their buck”, corporations often collect an incredible amount of data that can be processed for years to come. In one such experiment, I was asked to help collect , process, and analyze petabytes of data in both the VIS and RF regimes. The resulting data pool comprised still images, video, and raw I/Q RF data from multiple air, land, and sea assets. Two images resembling datasets taken that date are illustrated below.

Why was such a large fleet of assets needed to collect information during the experiment? In a word, Coordination. In a previous article, we discussed how the Earth’s ionosphere is constantly changing and is a very complex, multi-layered phenomenon. Much like a fluid, the ‘shape’ of the ionosphere heavily depends on the angle at which you view it. From one angle, the ionosphere may look like a simple rolling wave of ions. From another view, however, the ionosphere may look like a roiling, shapeless mass. The best opportunity to characterize the ionosphere at one time, then, is to try to capture a visualization of its state all at the same time, from different angles.