News

Developing a UAS-Based Approach for Surveying Northern Fur Seals in Alaska

Article and Figures Provided By: Katie Sweeney (AFSC/MML)

Kenneth Vierra 0 3053 Article rating: 4.5

The northern fur seal population in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska has experienced drastic declines. In 2018, St. Paul Island fur seals reached the lowest pup production levels since 1915, while pup abundance in the Pribilof Islands has declined 50 percent since 1998. It is imperative that NOAA Fisheries continue to monitor and document this decline to identify potential threats to recovery and inform management decisions. Currently, population estimates are derived from biennial pup abundance surveys and are conducted on the ground, requiring the participation of more than 20 researchers and support staff for up to 21 days. This method is costly, labor intensive, and involves disturbing the entire population of fur seals on both islands—an estimated 100,000 pups and many more adults and juveniles.

In partnership with the UAS Program Office, NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Mammal Laboratory (MML) is working towards developing a survey approach using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research and Operations in Tropical Cyclones (sUAS-ROTC)

Article Provided by: Joseph J. Cione (AOML/HRD)

Kenneth Vierra 0 1529 Article rating: 3.5
In recent years, an increasing number of hurricanes have impacted the United States with devastating results, and many experts expect this trend to continue in the years ahead. In the wake of powerful recent Hurricanes Sandy (2012), Harvey (2017), Irma (2017) Maria (2017) and Michael (2018), NOAA is working to provide improved and highly accurate hurricane-related forecasts over a longer time window prior to landfall. NOAA therefore has taken on the challenge to develop a program that will require applying the best science and technology available to improve hurricane prediction without placing NOAA personnel at increased risk. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are an emerging technology in the civil and research arena capable of responding to this need.

NOAA is testing and developing three small UAS platforms with the ultimate goal of flying them into the boundary layer environment — i.e. where the hurricane meets the surface of the ocean — of mature hurricanes. The first effort is the OAR-funded project with AREA-I Inc., while the other two of these efforts (with Black Swift Industries and Barron Associates) are being funded through NOAA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. 

NOAA Provides Forecasts for World’s Largest Balloon Festival using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Article Provided By: Bruce Baker (ATDD Division Director); Photo by © Bennie Boss / Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Kenneth Vierra 0 2147 Article rating: 5.0
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual hot air balloon festival that takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the course of nine days in early October. The event attracts over 500 hot air balloons and over 800,000 attendees each year, making it the largest balloon festival in the world. The 2019 Fiesta is scheduled from October 5-13. During this time, the NOAA Air Resources Lab, UAS Program Office, National Weather Service, and Aircraft Operations Center UAS Section are partnering to provide forecasts for the balloon pilots using a small UAS.

Using Drones to Help Improve Weather Forecasts

Article and Figures Provided By: Bruce Baker (ATDD Division Director)

Kenneth Vierra 0 2741 Article rating: 4.1
Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), commonly referred to as drones, are becoming widely used for many different applications. One of these applications is to make measurements of the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere in what scientists refer to as the boundary layer. Scientists are now using drones to gather critical information on how temperature, moisture, and wind evolve within the boundary layer under different weather conditions. Doing this helps scientists to better understand the atmosphere, ultimately leading to improvements in weather forecast models used by NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Bathymetric Mapping and Orthoimage Generation using sUAS and SfM, An Approach for Conducting Nearshore Coastal Mapping

Article and Figures Provided By: Tim Battista (NOS/NCCOS/Marine Spatial Ecology Division)

Kenneth Vierra 0 1257 Article rating: No rating
The use of commercially available unmanned vehicles have become increasingly common in coastal areas. This work was funded by NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office (UASPO) through its federal funding opportunity. Our research was designed to support NOAA OCS’s nautical charting needs in shallow (<10 m) waters. NOAA OCS is developing procedures to operate sUAS from hydrographic vessels. The methods described here will be companion to these operational procedures, and together will help move this technological approach from research towards operations at NOAA. In addition working to meet NOAA OCS’s needs, there has been substantial interest in sUAS applications beyond nautical charting from other NOAA offices, federal agencies, state agencies and non-governmental organizations. This interest has ranged widely from mapping and monitoring coastal habitats to surveying marine animals to observing human activities in coastal environments. Efforts are currently underway to build on the research described here, and continue to design and test new applications for commercially available unmanned vehicles at NOAA NCCOS.
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