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.
NOAA has been involved with the testing and development of UAS for several years. Collaboration with NASA and industry partners in 2005-2007 resulted in a series of tests using both large and small UAS for various applications. Since those beginnings, the NOAA UAS Program was formally established and has been expanding UAS research, development and transitions to operations and commercialization.