UAS Program

to the

Research Areas

Evaluate observing strategies

Address critical data gaps

Facilitate UAS application

Evaluate ship-launched UAS technology and infrastructure

Develop extended visual line of sight operations

Analyze the value of high-altitude observations

Develop UAS CONOPS for conducting pinniped surveys in remote regions

UAS Program Mission

To facilitate UAS applications and utilization

Accelerate transition of UAS capabilities from research to operations

Provide expertise and resources for UAS research and development

Vision: To fully exploit UAS capabilities to meet NOAA’s mission requirements


Surveying Antarctic Predators to Inform Fisheries Management

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Surveying Antarctic Predators to Inform Fisheries Management

Article and Figures Provided By Douglas Kraus (NMFS/AERD)

NOAA Fisheries’ Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (AERD) studies and monitors several species of seals and penguins that are indicators of the health of the regional fishery for Antarctic krill. Krill are the focus of an expanding international fishery in the Antarctic, but are also a fundamental food source for the region’s fish, marine mammals, and birds. Accurate census counts and measurements of body condition are fundamental to seal and penguin population management, but can be difficult to obtain in remote polar environments. Funding from the UAS Program Office partially supports said studies.


Building an Operational Program for Small UAS for Flood Mapping and Routine Equipment Inspection at NWS Alaska

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Building an Operational Program for Small UAS for Flood Mapping and Routine Equipment Inspection at NWS Alaska

Article / Figures Provided By: Dr. Jessica Cherry

In Alaska, flooding is the most frequent cause of state disaster declarations. Ice jam floods during spring break-up have devastated many communities along waterways in the large Yukon and Kuskokwim River basins over the past century. Snowmelt and heavy precipitation can cause flooding in the spring and summer time. Alaska also faces frequent impacts from the outbursts of glacially dammed lakes. For many years, the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center (APRFC) has depended on partners to help monitor flood conditions in remote communities on the ground or in small aircraft. Building in-house capabilities to deploy small Unmanned Aerial Systems, helps bring cutting edge data collection to the decision-support services at the National Weather Service.

Observing Atmospheric Fluxes with UAS (miniFlux)

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Observing Atmospheric Fluxes with UAS (miniFlux)

Article and Figures Provided By: Gijs de Boer (ESRL/PSD/CIRES)

Understanding the transfer of heat and momentum between different layers of the atmosphere and the underlying surface is critical for improving our weather and climate forecasts. Scientists at NOAA’s Physical Sciences Division (PSD) and the University of Colorado’s (CU) Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) are working to develop, test, calibrate and deploy the compact, lightweight (1.2 lbs) miniFlux sensor system (Figure 1). This miniaturized instrument, which is supported by NOAA’s UAS Program Office, can reliably collect these measurements from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  Deploying this lightweight package on UAS over difficult-to-sample regions of the Earth can provide perspectives on these important processes in ways not previously possible.

sUAS Bathymetric Mapping for Featureless Bottom Topography Using Naturally Occurring Structure Light

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sUAS Bathymetric Mapping for Featureless Bottom Topography Using Naturally Occurring Structure Light

Article and Figures Provided By: Tim Battista (NOS/NCCOS)

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with Flash Structure from Motion (SfM) capabilities are of great interest as a supplement to existing technologies for marine debris detection, reef restoration, and ship-grounding impacts. Coastal storms and geo-hazards, including hurricanes, nor’easters and tsunamis, can deposit marine debris over vast areas, threatening marine ecosystems and navigation safety. Identification and geolocation of the debris is necessary to direct removal efforts, but can be a challenging and expensive task. These events can also cause significant damage to coral reef communities and even dislodge corals. Restoration triage to “replant” the damaged corals is time critical. Additionally, ship-grounding incidents caused by coastal storms require accurate and rapid information to conduct damage assessment and recovery efforts. The available geospatial information collected after Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which heavily impacted the U.S. Caribbean and beyond, clearly indicate the limitations of current coastal intelligence abilities to addressing disaster impacts in the littoral zone.