NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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NOAA UAS in the News

Recent News:

First ever of Autonomous net capture of UAS in the Arctic
The NOAA Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program First ever autonomous net capture in the Arctic.

NOAA UAS Program Briefs at the GOES-R Field Campaign Workshop on April 8th
The NOAA UAS Program is evaluating the possibility of assisting with the calibration and validations (CAL/VAL) of the GOES-R sensors.

Successful Testing of a Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Net Capture System
The NOAA Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program in conjunction with AeroVironment and OMAO successfully tested the Puma autonomous shipboard recovery system.

Continued Testing of a UAS Net Capture System
The NOAA Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program in conjunction with AeroVironment and  OMAO continue testing of the Puma autonomous shipboard recovery system. 

Drone Researchers Find a New Frontier in Alaska, the Arctic (offsite link to NBC News)
Since the UAS program ramped up in 2009, NOAA has used drones in just a handful of Alaska projects: two Alaska marine mammal surveys, work in Greenland, twice supporting Coast Guard oil spill exercises and a partnership with NASA to deploy a large GlobalHawk drone for weather and climate studies.

US Coast Guard, NOAA Testing UAS in Arctic
This summer, the Healy, the Coast Guard’s research icebreaker, conducted unmanned aerial vehicle tests in the Arctic alongside NOAA, said Robbie Hood, UAS program director at the scientific agency.

Coast Guard Research and Development Center, NOAA test Unmanned Aircraft System during Arctic exercise
Scientists at the Coast Guard Research and Development Center have a long history of studying UAS for their potential to improve Coast Guard operations. This summer they teamed with researchers from NOAA to evaluate the system's abilities in the extreme environment of the Arctic.

Coast Guard, NOAA Test Puma - AUVSI Unmanned Systems Magazine - October 2014
It's called the Oil in Ice Project, and while buoys and submersibles collected data from the water, the Puma did its part flying over the Arctic Ocean.

Dr. Robbie Hood - AUVSI Unmanned Systems Magazine - September 2014
Atmospheric scientist Dr. Robbie Hood has served as the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program office since 2008. She sat down with Unmanned Systems to give an overview of the program and to highlight changes coming in the near future.

Global Hawk lets forecasters and scientists see clearly inside a storm
NASA and NOAA have been working together over a three-year period to evaluate the use of the Global Hawk for the study of hurricanes.

Coast Guard conducts first unmanned aircraft system deck landings
Coast Guard and NOAA researchers successfully landed an unmanned aircraft system on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Healy Monday, marking the first time a UAS has completed a take-off and landing aboard a Coast Guard icebreaker.

Hurricane-Proof Drones Are the Storm Chasers of Tomorrow
A new unmanned aerial vehicle will go where no machine has gone before: the poorly understood, low-lying guts of a storm.

NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Supports Arctic Shield 2014
The USCG's Research and Development Center (RDC) has tested methods to overcome unique challenges and made them the focus of the annual Arctic Shield Exercise. 

NOAA UAS Workshop
Information about the Alaska UAS Interest Group Annual Meeting.

John "JC" Coffey gives UAS Briefing at EVS Workshop
The presentation slides, Applications of UAS to Land and Natural Resource Management, are available on this site and the workshop site.

EVS workshop focuses on applications of unmanned aircraft systems to land and natural resource monitoring
EVS hosted a two-day invitational workshop on UAS applications to land and natural resources monitoring on July 16-17, 2014. 

NOAA Tests UAS for Wildlife Surveys and Environmental Research in Hawaii
NOAA scientists are testing two types of unmanned aircraft this summer to survey a variety of rare and endangered species, monitor remote marine areas, locate marine debris for removal and study fragile ecological features in the vast Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

FAA Rules on Drones Grounding Science
While unmanned aerial vehicles are beginning to capture the broader public's attention, many scientists say they can revolutionize marine research and conservation efforts without risking life, limb or graduate student.

Todd Jacobs and team study Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Q & A with Todd Jacobs in AUVSI Magazine. Story starts on page 24.

PMNM Supports Ikhana Unmanned Aircraft System Operations
For two days, researchers with NOAA’s OAR-UAS, Marine Debris Program and Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Programs, along with USFWS, USCG and the US Navy participated in the flight of NASA’s Ikhana Predator MQ-9 UAS in the Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (MHI & NWHI).

Unmanned aircraft soars over Peninsula coast for researchers
Seabirds nesting on the small, rocky islands off the western coast of the North Olympic Peninsula have nothing to fear from what may look to them like a strange creature swooping over their homes.

NOAA testing drones off Washington Coast
The researchers who work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) prefer the term Unmanned Aerial System, but most people know them as drones. NOAA has been testing two different drone systems off the northern Washington coast for the past two weeks.

Unmanned Vehicle Systems Applications and Innovations for Environmental Monitoring
Guests from NOAA, Virginia Tech, Alaska Center for UAS Integration at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks discuss with the host, the applications and innovations for environmental monitoring using UAS.

NOAA to Test Unmanned Aircraft to Monitor Florida Keys Wildlife
NOAA will test whether an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) can help scientists at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary observe and monitor wildlife at close range with minimal disturbance, locate marine debris and better understand how boaters use the sanctuary.

'Drone' Hunts Atlantic Fish
Off the coast of Georgia last week, researchers and pilots from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the ability of a small unmanned aircraft — a drone — to conduct fish population surveys.

Common Murres - PUMA UAS deployment to Olympic Coast National  Marine Sanctuary - (June 2013)
The team of federal biologists spent two weeks flying fixed-wing Pumas and mini-helicopters over remote beaches to test their usefulness for seabird and marine-debris surveys.

MIZOPEX - (Spring 2013)
NOAA is contributing to a very important NASA project monitoring ice-melt and variability in the marginal ice zone in the Arctic: The Marginal Ice Zone Observations and Processes Experiment (MIZOPEX).

Monitoring Atmospheric Composition with SkyWisp - (Fall 2012)
The NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Office has funded a pilot study to collect atmospheric samples and data from altitudes as high as 100,000 ft using a balloon tethered UAS glider, SkyWisp.

Target: Hurricanes - (September 2012)
NOAA Scientists Part Of NASA-Led Mission To Study The Damaging Storms With Unmanned Aircraft, New Instruments

AUVSI’s Tenth Annual Student Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) Competition - (June 2012)
NOAA demonstrates a meteorological balloon to students participating in AUVSI's tenth annual student UAS competition.

Introducing EMILY and other innovations to imporove hurricane forecasts - (May 2012)
NOAA researchers will be using several innovative tools, techniques, and research results during the 2012 hurricane season to continue to improve hurricane forecasting. Several of these are summarized below in our 2012 hurricane research news briefs.

UAS deployed in the Arctic for Steller Sea Lions Surveys - (5/10/2012)
NOAA Scientists are testing unmanned planes to test a quieter adn possibly safer approach to surveying populations of endangered marine mammals, such as Steller sea lions off Finch Point, Seguam Island, Alaska.

Archive News:

That's Professor Global Hawk - (5/1/2011 - off-site link)
A Global Hawk has been used for Earth science in a joint effort between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to demonstrate the aircraft's scientific utility.

Remotely operated aircraft measure Arctic soot - YouTube Video - (April 2011)
The NOAA/PMEL Manta flew 18 flights out of Ny Alesund, Svalbard, Norway during the Soot Transport, Absorption, and Deposition Study measuring vertical profiles of soot, particle number, temperature and relative humidity.

Aloft in the Arctic - (5/5/2011)
An international research team, completed a series of unmanned flights over the Arctic. The team is investigating the potential role of black carbon, or soot, in the rapidly changing Arctic climate.

Drone seeks storms' secrets - (6/29/09)
In the middle of the Atlantic, they will hunt hurricanes -- maybe leading to the end of manned reconnaissance flights, or at least the most dangerous ones.

UAF aircraft developed to help monitor seal populations - (6/2/2009)
A drone aircraft is flying surveillance over the Bering Sea this month as scientists test its prospects for documenting little-studied ice seals at the southern edge of the ice pack.

Unmanned Aircraft Launched from NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson - (10/29/08)
Scientists have successfully launched and retrieved an unmanned aircraft from the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson this month, preparing for a planned expedition to study ice seals in the Bering Sea in the spring of 2009.

From Arctic scientists test out unmanned aircraft (10/30/08)
The idea is that crafts like this one will extend the research capacity of NOAA's non-icebreaking research vessels.

From the Boulder Daily Camera - CU, Boulder researchers to fly unmanned planes over Greenland (7/16/08)
Unmanned airplanes flying over Greenland’s ice sheet this month is expected to give Boulder scientists a rare chance to do everything from monitor melting to tracking seal and polar bear populations.

From the Miami Herald - Drone aircraft being used in hurricane research (3/25/2008)
Unmanned, remote-controlled airplanes are being used by the U.S. government to conduct dangerous research missions into hurricanes.

From the Boulder Daily Camera - Unmanned planes head into danger (2/4/2008)
Beginning this spring, unmanned planes will be recruited to go on research missions -- to diminishing ice shelves, the eyes of hurrincanes and the hearts of heavy rainstorms -- deemed too risky for humans.

From Earth & Sky - Robot aircraft do dirty work of science (Feb 2008)
Marty Ralph of ESRL tells Earth & Sky that in addition to chasing hurricanes, the robot planes will gauge the potential for flooding from Pacific storms and better measure the melt of Arctice ice.

From Slashdot - Robot Planes to Track Weather and Climate (1/24/08 external link)
Drone aircraft would be outfitted with special sensors and technology to help NOAA scientists better predict a hurricane's intensity and track, how fast Arctic summer ice will melt, and whether soggy Pacific storms will flood West Coast cities.

NOAA Press Release - NOAA Invests $3 Million for Unmanned Aircraft System Testing (1/22/08)
Pilotless Craft Gather Data for Hurricane Forecasts, Climate, West Coast Flood Warnings. Unmanned aircraft bearing automated sensors may soon help NOAA scientists better predict a hurricane’s intensity and track, how fast Arctic summer ice will melt, and whether soggy Pacific storms will flood West Coast cities.

From - Robot planes take to the skies (1/22/08)
Robot craft will be sent on monitoring missions this summer that are either too long or too perilous for human operations.

From BioMedicine - NOAA invests $3 million for unmanned aircraft system testing (1/23/08)
Unmanned aircraft bearing automated sensors may soon help NOAA scientists better predict a hurricanes intensity and track, how fast Arctic summer ice will melt, and whether soggy Pacific storms will flood West Coast cities.

From - Unmanned aircraft could boost hurricane-monitoring (1/22/08)
Unlike manned aircraft, which are generally safe but put people at risk, unmanned craft theoretically could operate for sustained periods at lower altitudes and give meteorologists a continuous sampling of data, including wind speed, temperature, pressure and moisture.

From United Press International - NOAA to test climate data-gathering drones (1/22/08)
Unmanned aircraft may soon be flying into hurricanes and over the Arctic ice to test if they can be used on risky flights.

From Reuters - Unmanned aircraft could boost hurricane-monitoring (1/22/08 external link)
At an American Meteorological Society meeting in New Orleans, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists announced a three-year program initially funded with $3 million to study use of unmanned aircraft in hurricanes.

From USA Today - Robot planes to take on "dangerous, dull, or dirty" missions (1/22/08 external link)
For research missions that are too "dangerous, dull or dirty" for pilots and scientists, new unmanned aircraft will take to the skies this summer to observe Atlantic hurricanes and Arctic ice patterns.

From BBC News - Robots to collect dangerous data (1/23/08)
Robot planes have long been used by the military, but they are now being adapted for scientific use. NOAA researchers say it could revolutionise the way the Earth's systems are monitored.

From EarthSkyBlogs - Hurricanes on a plane - Jorge Salazar (1/22/08)
NOAA plans to develop a program of robotic aircraft that will carry automated sensors to do the dirty work of obtaining important scientific data on hard-to-measure phenomena such as hurricanes and storms over the Pacific ocean, sea ice, snow pack, and wildfires.

From - Send in the Drones (1/22/08)
Why shouldn't hurricane forecasters get in on the fun of playing with remote-controlled planes? Good news: They are.

12/14/2007 – From KHNL News: National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's New Eye in the Sky

11/02/2007 – Pilotless Aircraft Flies Toward Eye of Hurricane for First Time

09/2007 – Monitoring Environmental Change ... Like a Hawk - Envirocast Volume 2, Issue 2 September 2007

10/08/2007 – Washington Post Science Chat - Washington Post staff writer Christopher Lee with Joe Cione

09/18/2007 – From Honolulu Star Bulletin: Search for sea debris will be on autopilot

08/24/2007 – Message from the Under Secretary - Unmanned Aircraft Ready for Hurricane Test

08/2007 – Aerospace America - Commentary by V.Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr. (Ret.) (.pdf)

03/01/2007 – Unmanned Systems - Published by AUVSI for the Unmanned Systems Industry (.pdf)

11/06/2006 – From Aero-News.Net: NASA Supports UAS Fire Mapping Efforts in CA Fire (external) – PDF Version

10/30/2006 – From LA Times: Firefighters contain most of fatal Esperanza blaze (.pdf)

10/05/2006 – From Unmanned aerial vehicles get funding boost

09/08/2006 – From Unmanned drones to probe hurricanes

08/20/2006 – From the Boulder Daily Camera > News > Science: Unmanned Science Takes Flight

07/13/2006 – Senate Hearing Testimonies "Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Alaska and the Pacific Region: A Framework for the Nation" (external link)

07/14/2006 – Message from the Under Secretary - "Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Alaska and the Pacific Region"

03/21/2006 – NOAA Missions Now Utilizing Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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aerosonde image
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NASA's Ikhana
Altair News
Aerosonde News
Manta News
(external link)
Silver Fox News
NASA Ikhana News

Archive NOAA Press Releases:

NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Helping Scientists Learn About Alaskan Ice Seals (6/2/09)

Bush Administration More Than Quadruples 2009 Hurricane Forecast Improvement Budget Request to $17 Million (8/11/08)

Unmanned Aircraft to Get Bird's Eye View of Shrinking Greenland Ice Sheet (7/15/08)

NOAA Invests $3 Million for Unmanned Aircraft System Testing (1/22/08)