Part 3
Projects & Landmarks
Environment / Landmark


In-service Aircraft for a Global Observing System

Global-scale and long-term atmospheric monitoring system from commercial aircraft


The In-service Aircraft for a Global Observing System (IAGOS) is a distributed Research Infrastructure that operates a global-scale monitoring system for atmospheric trace gases, aerosols and clouds by using the existing provisions of the global air transport system to provide essential data on climate change and air quality. It complements the global observing system in addition to ground-based networks, dedicated research campaigns and observations from satellites, balloons, and ships. IAGOS builds on the scientific and technological experience gained within the research projects MOZAIC – Measurement of Ozone and Water Vapour on Airbus in-service Aircraft – and CARIBIC – Civil Aircraft for the Regular Investigation of the Atmosphere Based on an Instrument Container. The technical, organisational and legal concept for IAGOS has been developed during its Preparatory Phase.

IAGOS was formally implemented in January 2014 as an International not-for-profit Association under Belgian Law (AISBL) with its seat in Brussels.


The dual setup of IAGOS aims at providing global-scale coverage of key observables on a day-to-day basis with a more complex set of observations with reduced coverage. The IAGOS-CORE component comprises the implementation and operation of autonomous instruments installed on long-range aircraft of several internationally operating airlines for continuous, global-scale and daily measurements of reactive gases, greenhouse gases (e.g. CO2, CH4), aerosol and cloud particles. The IAGOS-CARIBIC component consists of a heavily modified cargo container equipped with instruments for a large suite of trace gases and aerosol parameters, which is deployed once per month for four intercontinental flights. At present 8 aircraft are equipped with IAGOS-CORE instrumentation and one aircraft carries the IAGOS-CARIBIC container. At the end of its Construction Phase,

IAGOS aims for an operational fleet of up to 20 equipped passenger aircraft. IAGOS contributes to improved understanding of climate change and global air quality by providing regular in situ observations on a scale and in numbers that would be impossible to achieve using research aircraft and for which other measurement methods (e.g. satellites) have technical limitations. This input is essential for climate research, emissions monitoring, weather prediction and air quality forecasting. Data is provided for climate models, including those used by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, and for the carbon cycle models employed for the verification of CO2 emission and Kyoto monitoring. Regional air quality models will assimilate IAGOS near real-time data to improve forecasts. IAGOS data are also utilised for the calibration and validation of satellite sensors. Cooperation with aviation industry and instrumentation developers aims at designing strategies to deal with the observation of ice particles and dust, including volcanic ash and their operational consequences.


The direct impact is mainly on SMEs who are manufacturing instruments or are involved in the development and aeronautic maintenance of the instrumentation in order to assure continued airworthiness in accordance with international regulations for aviation. Engagement of airline companies as suppliers of transportation capacity and technical support was achieved on the basis of individual negotiations and by direct involvement as full project partners. Currently 3 European airlines – Deutsche Lufthansa, Air France and Iberia − and 3 airlines from outside Europe − China Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Hawaiian Airlines− are involved. Negotiations with other airlines from Europe and other countries are on-going in order to extend coverage. IAGOS contributes observational data directly to the aviation industry and airlines for improving operational procedures and thus reducing costs and enhancing aviation safety.

A long-term impact comes through the improved accuracy of numerical model predictions for air quality and climate change on the global and regional scale.

legal status
AISBL, 2014
political support
lead country
members countries
The full list of research institutions involved must be found in the website of the RI
Roadmap Entry
Preparation Phase
Operation Start
estimated costs
capital value
9.2 M€
4.4 M€
3.5 M€
45 M€
7 M€/year

Brussels, Belgium