Air NZ on board with new climate change research

Imagine if scientists could accurately predict the severity of storms and other climate phenomena, giving those in their path potentially life-saving information.

NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) currently has 8 satellites orbiting the Equator using a technique called Global Navigation Satellite System Reflectometry (GNSS-R). The satellites receive signals directly from GPS satellites and signals reflected from the Earth. By comparing the characteristics of these 2 sets of signals, CYGNSS makes accurate measurements of tropical storms and other phenomena to provide valuable data to help scientists better predict cyclones and hurricanes.

Now Air New Zealand has come on board to extend the mission and monitor the environmental signs of climate change over Aotearoa New Zealand.

By September 2022 a next-generation GNSS-R sensor will be fitted to an Air New Zealand Q300 aircraft flying domestic routes. As the plane flies around the country, sensors will collect high resolution data on soil moisture, flood and coastal inundation dynamics across New Zealand’s diverse landscapes.

Known as Rongowai which combines the Maori words rongo (to sense) and wai (water) the sensor will gather important data to help predict tropical storms, as well as enable new climate change research in New Zealand.

Rongowai will provide unique ground and airborne validation of CYGNSS science data products, as well as allow NASA to advance the technology readiness of the new sensor in support of future satellite missions.

In 2019, MBIE signed agreements with NASA and Air New Zealand to enable collaboration with the mission. The mission is being supported through MBIE’s Catalyst Fund.

Last updated: 15 September 2022