The proposed innovation is a low-cost, retrievable and reusable, autonomously guided dropsonde capable of deploying from a host aircraft and performing in-situ atmospheric measurements. We have decided to name this platform the NavSonde−an autonomously navigable sonde-glider. The proposed effort focuses on the engineering work involved with the retrieval of high altitude volcanic ash plume samples using this autonomously guided dropsonde. Small scale particulate sampling equipment for airborne missions is not commercially available. Even for full scale manned systems, many research programs develop their own collection and sensor systems. A small form factor unmanned aerial sampling system, capable of being deployed from a host aircraft at high altitudes and autonomously guided to regions of interest will offer atmospheric scientists an innovative research tool−particularly for those seeking unprecedented access to high altitude atmospheric sampling to monitor events that may be deemed too dangerous for manned aircraft. Autonomously guided dropsondes have several advantages over current dropsondes−the main ones being their ability to fly to regions of interest and to perform pre-programmed actions at specified locations and/or altitudes (e.g. sample).