News

NOAA GML Scientists Successfully Test the “High-Altitude Operational Returning Uncrewed System” Glider with AirCore Science Package to 75,000 feet MSL

Article and Figures Provided By: Colm Sweeney and Bianca Baier

Kenneth Vierra 0 376 Article rating: 5.0

Recent flight testing of the “High-altitude Operational Returning Uncrewed System” (HORUS) at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center and Edwards Air Force Base, California between May 13-25, 2021 marks a huge success within NOAA. Scientists from NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML) and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) tested the ability to launch and recover the uncrewed HORUS glider and its AirCore science payload with operations up to 75,000 ft above mean sea level (MSL). The reusable platform and AirCore instrument ascended into the upper atmosphere, attached to a balloon before being released. It then collected air samples vertically from 72,000 ft MSL down to a predetermined landing spot during its remotely controlled, designed, spiraling descent. Reaching speeds of more than 200 knots at the beginning of the glide phase, HORUS was able to make up for the downwind drift caused by the 60+ knot wind speeds it had encountered around 40,000 feet MSL during its earlier balloon ascent. The successful testing brings the NOAA/OMAO Uncrewed Systems Operation Center (UxSOC) funded; and NOAA/OAR Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (UxSRTO) supported HORUS development to a Readiness Level of 8. This marks an exciting opportunity for many other NOAA atmospheric research stakeholders because HORUS enables the deployment and retrieval of high-value, balloon-borne packages from a designated launch and recovery location, even when strong mid-level wind conditions can be expected.  With the HORUS, scientists can much more efficiently collect critical, higher-accuracy atmospheric measurements from all over the world to help improve weather and climate models, which have been limited until now because of the inability to effectively retrieve and reuse valuable sensor packages in areas where conditions and a lack of such technology have prohibited the realization of this novel concept.

Advances in Monitoring Restoration of Juvenile Salmon Habitat with Drones

Article and Figures Provided By: G. Curtis Roegner (NMFS)

Kenneth Vierra 0 906 Article rating: 5.0

Juvenile Pacific salmon rely on functioning wetlands for food and shelter as they migrate to the sea. In the Pacific Northwest, most wetland habitats have been lost or severely impacted, necessitating widespread restoration programs enacted to improve connectivity between water systems and reestablish native vegetation. Programs may include varied ecological engineering solutions, but all require monitoring to assess effectiveness. Until recently, assessments have lacked spatial and temporal resolution and have been time-consuming and expensive. 

 

With funding and logistical support from the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (USRTO), scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have developed integrated remote sensing protocols using Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (drones), advanced instrumentation, and image analysis methods that together facilitate a broad habitat assessment capability. 

UAS Characterization of High Wind Damage to Vegetation and Rural Area Assessments

Article and Figures Provided By: Melissa Wagner (NSSL/CIMM)

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Damage assessments provide insight into the occurrence, intensity, and distribution of tornadoes and other high-wind events. Current ground survey and satellite assessments, however, are restricted by available resources (e.g., personnel, time, and cost), accessibility, technological limitations, and damage indicators used to infer storm intensity. These assessments can be especially challenging in rural areas because storm damage is frequently underestimated due to the inability to detect vegetation stress, limited vegetation damage indicators, and low population density. In these sparsely populated areas, storm damage is often underreported and consequently affects severe storm climatology and our understanding of risk. Underestimating this risk can have serious implications on hazard monitoring as well as disaster preparedness and recovery in rural areas. With the help of the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (USRTO), scientists from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory in collaboration with the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies are working on developing an uncrewed aircraft system (UAS)-based approach to better characterize high-wind damage to vegetation and in rural areas to improve disaster response and recovery.

UAS Missions Supporting Flood Forecasting Following Hurricane Delta Landfall

Article Provided By: Robert Moorhead (Director, NGI) and John Walker (Contract Support For USRTO). Photos Provided By: Robert Moorhead (Director, NGI)

Kenneth Vierra 0 1821 Article rating: No rating

The NOAA OAR UAS Program, in cooperation with the National Weather Service River Forecast Centers (NWS RFCs) in the Southern Region and the Northern Gulf Institute (NGI; a NOAA Cooperative Institute), established a study several years ago to determine the cost and contributions of UAS-collected data toward improving forecasts and warnings of significant flood events. While the impacts of severe flooding are not isolated to this area alone, according to NOAA NCEI’s 2020 report, U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters, “The highest frequency of inland flood (i.e., non-tropical) events often occur in states adjacent to large rivers or the Gulf of Mexico, which is a warm source of moisture to fuel rainstorms”. The need for accurate, rapidly obtainable data in this region is all the more emphasized when this fact is combined with other known impacts from land-falling tropical cyclones each hurricane season. 

In October 2020, NGI added to the list of previous successful UAS deployments in support of this study, as the group was once again called into action by the regional NWS RFC to collect aerial flood image data after Hurricane Delta made landfall in Louisiana and passed through Mississippi. 

NOAA GLERL Great Lakes Cyanobacteria Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring

Article and Figures Provided By Lauren Marshall (Cherokee Nation Businesses / GLERL)

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While the pandemic has presented challenges to field operations these past few months, NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (NOAA GLERL) has worked to continue collecting data in a safe manner. Data provides critical monitoring of cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) in the western basin of Lake Erie. Crewed aircraft flyover operations, while delayed, continued to provide robust data sets beneath clouds and nearshore. In order to operate comfortably, crewed flyover operations are performed 3500-6500 feet with possible interference from cloud cover that is often forming as low as 1800 feet above the western basin. Next summer, with the support of UASPO funding, GLERL will operate a multi-rotor Uncrewed Aircraft System (UAS) to fly beneath the clouds and provide unprecedented imagery of areas close to shore, addressing a key information gap. The combination of these data sets will support the NOAA Lake Erie HAB Forecast.

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