The local air quality surrounding airports is significantly impacted by ground-based airplane operations, such as landing, taxiing, idling, and takeoff. In recent years, studies performed across the country revealed that people living near major airports suffer from increased cancer risks and higher likelihoods of developing respiratory issues. Jet engine emissions have been monitored extensively by direct probing of the exhaust, but there are currently no inexpensive, portable, and unobtrusive methods with which to study exhaust plume dynamics. This study assesses the feasibility of designing a multispectral imaging system to track the spatial-temporal nature of a jet engine plume. Ideally, the imaging system will be both inexpensive and portable enough to be deployed at any airport. We begin by characterizing the phenomenology of jet engine emissions during ground operations and select unburned hydrocarbons (UHCs) as the basis for our plume tracking. A proposed LWIR imaging system layout and radiometric governing equation is developed to predict the camera’s sensor-reaching radiance. We use two methods, the Ideal Gas Law and the Gaussian Plume Equation, to three-dimensionally model the UHC concentration within the plume, which, in turn, is used to predict the plume transmission as a function of downwind distance. Radiometric models are used to predict the sensor-reaching radiance of the camera, and two filter combinations are selected to maximize the plume detectability. Each filter combination uses one filter to monitor the background radiance and one filter to trace the plume radiance. They are located at 9.001/9.333 [um] and 9.12/12.212 [um]. The plume tracing filters are used to assess plume detectability, and we find that that a camera with an NEDT of 0.05 [K] will be able to detect the plume up to 120 seconds after the engine has passed. We conclude by predicting what filter difference the camera will observe temporally, as plumes are continuously generated and dissipated. The effect of individual UHCs on total plume transmission was also examined, and a selection of narrowband filters for monitoring specific UHCs is proposed for future work. Results will help to prototype a system for deployment at the Greater Rochester International Airport. This work will make airport emissions inventories more accessible and allow for improved governing of emission caps and pollution bylaws.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Hydrocarbons--Imaging; Multispectral imaging; Jet planes--Fuel--Environmental aspects

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Imaging Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


David W. Messinger

Advisor/Committee Member

Emmett Ientilucci

Advisor/Committee Member

Carl Salvaggio


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at QD305.H5 B47 2016


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