NRC Flight Research Laboratory Convair-580 aircraft

National Research Council Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
What the facility does

Highly specialized and customizable research aircraft for in-situ and remote sensing environmental measurements from ground to an altitude of ~8 km

Areas of expertise

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Convair-580 is a twin engine pressurized turbo-prop aircraft that has been extensively modified for research. This largest aircraft in the NRC fleet has world-class capabilities for environmental research, which include the capacity to carry over 5000 lbs of project payload, and up to 10 research personnel. A typical flight lasts 3 to 5 hours at max altitude of ~24,000 ft.

NRC operates the research aircraft under an experimental flight permit issued by Transport Canada. The aircraft is supported by specialists in flight sciences, flight operations, design and fabrication engineering, airworthiness, instrumentation and earth and atmospheric sciences.

Due to its unique capabilities, the aircraft is considered as a national facility for supporting environmental research and Defence R&D, and has been used as a testbed for Technology Demonstration Projects (TDP). These capabilities were developed and are being maintained through long-term collaborations and agreements with Other Government Departments. The aircraft has been used on many national and international collaborative projects such as air quality, wildfire, icing, storm studies, cloud-aerosol interactions, technology development, validation and calibrations of space based earth observation (SBEO) sensors.

The National Research Council Canada (NRC) has a research aircraft fleet, located at the Ottawa airport.

Research services

The team offers to lead and support projects in atmospheric research (such as cloud physics, aircraft icing, storm studies, air quality, atmospheric chemistry, and forest fires), gradient aeromagnetics, spotlight synthetic aperture, radar and earth observation, satellites’ calibration and validation, testing sensor prototypes in flight and others. We offer the expertise of data collection, processing, and analysis. The team is experienced with writing research proposals, peer reviewed publications, reports and other scientific outputs.

Sectors of application
  • Aerospace and satellites
  • Agriculture, animal science and food
  • Chemical industries
  • Clean technology
  • Defence and security industries
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Environmental technologies and related services
  • Forestry and forest-based industries
  • Transportation
Airborne Ultra-High Sensitivity Aerosol Spectrometer (A-UHSAS)The instrument measures aerosol size distributions (60-1000nm)
Cloud Droplet Probe (CDP-2)The instrument measures hydrometeor size (2-50um) and concentration
Fast Cloud Droplet Probe (FCDP)The instrument measures hydrometeor size (1-50um) and concentration
Two-Dimensional Stereo (2DS) imaging probe, 4 armsThe instrument takes 2D images of hydrometeors and provides shape, size (10-1280um) and concentration
Two-Dimensional Cloud (2D-C) imaging probeThe instrument takes 2D images of hydrometeors and provides shape, size (50-1600um) and concentration
Cloud Imaging Probe (CIP-15)The instrument takes 2D images of hydrometeors and provides shape, size (25-1550um) and concentration
Precipitation Imaging Probe (PIP)The instrument takes 2D images of hydrometeors and provides shape, size (100-6400um) and concentration
High-Speed Imaging (HSI) probeTakes high-resolution greyscale images of hydrometeors and provides shape/habit, size (10-2000um) and concentration
High Volume Precipitation Spectrometer (HVPS-4), 4 armsThe instrument takes 2D images of hydrometeors and provides shape, size (50-19200um) and concentration
Goodrich Rosemount Icing Detector (RID)2xRID sensors that detect icing conditions (Collins Aerospace)
Nevzorov sensorBulk microphysical measurements (Total and Liquid Water Content)
Science Engineering Associates Inc. Icing Conditions Detector (ICD)Measures bulk water content
Inertial Navigation Systems (INS) and GPSAircraft state: 4xINS and 2xGPS

Rosemount Temperature Sensors


4xTemperature sensors in different locations on the aircraft
LI-COR LI-840A CO2/H2O Analyzer Measurements of humidity, dew point temperature, CO2 concentration
LI-COR LI-7000 CO2/H2O AnalyzerMeasurements of humidity, dew point temperature, CO2 concentration
Chilled Mirror Hygrometer (CMH)Measurements of dew point/frost point temperature
Pressure transducers (multiple)Measurements of dynamic and static pressure, winds direction and intensity
Air Data Probes (ADP) (5-hole) (3)Air pressure transducers. Measurements of dynamic and static pressure, winds direction and intensity.
ATMOSPHERE PLANET flight mission management systemGround to air communication: chat, limited data transfer, track marking.
NRC Airborne W-band cloud radar (94.05 GHz) (NAW)A dual-polarization Doppler radar with fine temporal and spatial measurements at zenith, nadir and side direction.
NRC Airborne X-band precipitation radar (9.41 GHz) (NAX)A Doppler radar with three antennas pointing above, below and side direction. Side antenna has polarimetric capability.
Aircraft radarPilot X-band radar
HiSRAMS Hyperspectral Radiometers at Oxygen band (60 GHz) and WV (183 GHz)Scanning, option for zenith/nadir. Measures Brightness Temperature, temperature and water vapor profiles.
Lidar (355 nm, zenith pointing)Cloud structure, and composition – Lidar backscatter and polarization
Goodrich Stormscope  WX-500Lightning detection
  • Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)
  • Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC)
  • Department of National Defense (DND)
  • Transport Canada (TC)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (USA)
  • Department of Energy (DOE) (USA)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (USA)
  • National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) (USA)
  • European Space Agency (ESA) (France)
  • McGill University
  • Toronto University
  • York University
  • University of Manitoba
  • Carleton University
  • UQAM
  • Université de Sherbrooke
  • University of Reading (England)
  • University of Leicester (England)
  • Collins Aerospace (USA)
  • Droplet Measurement Technologies Inc. (USA)
  • Airbus (Netherlands)
  • Omnisys Instruments Inc. (Sweden)
  • ProSensing Inc. (USA)
  • Instrumar Ltd.
  • MDA Ltd.
NRC Research aircraft fleet
Myth or Science: In the Eye of the Storm (Cloud research onboard Convair-580)
Honeywell joins High Altitude Ice Crystal Task Force (HIWC flight campaign)
Measuring precipitation in the Arctic (RadSnowExp flight campaign near the Arctic Circle)
Flying air-monitoring lab tests emissions in oilsands region (OilSands flight campaign)
Meteorology students take part in aircraft icing research (ICICLE flight campaign)…
Scientists fly plane into winter storm to study the impact of icy conditions (ICICLE flight campaign)…
Implementation of polarization diversity pulse-pair technique using airborne W-band radar
Determination of ice water content (IWC) in tropical convective clouds from X-band dual-polarization airborne radar
Storm Studies in the Arctic (STAR)
Airborne and ground-based measurements in the Athabasca Oil Sands region
Measured Canadian oil sands CO2 emissions are higher than estimates made using internationally recommended methods