NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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NOAA UAS Program

NOAA UAS Program

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) can revolutionize NOAA's ability to monitor and understand the global environment. There is a key information gap today between instruments on Earth's surface and on satellites - UAS can bridge that gap. Operated by remote pilots and ranging in wingspan from less than six feet to more than 115 feet, UAS can also collect data from dangerous or remote areas, such as the poles, oceans, wildlands, volcanic islands, and wildfires. Better data and observations improve understanding and forecasts, save lives, property, and resources, advancing NOAA's mission goals.

Photo: Gary Wick

Dr. Gary Wick is a Physicist in the Physical Science Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab (ESRL). Gary is working on the Science Definition Team in NOAA’s UAS Program for FY14. Gary’s involvement in the UAS Program will be focused on high impact weather projects, in particular the new Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT). Gary will continue to serve as the NOAA PI for the Global Hawk dropsonde system as part of the Severe Storm and Sentinel Project.

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UAS Video:

Global Hawk Dropsonde HS3

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Vision: UAS will revolutionize NOAA observing strategies comparable to the introduction of satellite and radar assets decades earlier.

Program Goals:

  • Goal 1: Increase UAS observing capacity
  • Goal 2: Develop high science-return UAS missions.
  • Goal 3: Transition cost-effective, operationally feasible UAS solutions into routine operations

Mission Areas:

  • High impact weather monitoring
  • Polar monitoring
  • Marine monitoring

2012 Sponsored Projects:

  • Ozone Monitoring using Skywisp® UAS
  • Monitoring Marine Debris using two Small UAS 
  • Monitoring Marine Sanctuaries with PUMA 


NOAA's UAS work draws on expertise from industry, academic, and government partners. This broad coalition seeks to apply technologies used in national defense - including high- and low-altitude UAS, communication technologies, and instruments - to benefit the global environment.

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