NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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NOAA invests $3 million for unmanned aircraft system testing

From Bio-Medicine 1/23/2008

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. All three efforts are part of NOAAs Unmanned Aircraft Systems program. NOAA recently invested $3 million in federal money to explore the use of the crewless vehicles for wide-ranging research designed ultimately to help save lives and property. NOAA officials announced the funding award today at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in New Orleans.

This technology has the potential to revolutionize our monitoring of the entire Earth, said Marty Ralph, a research meteorologist at NOAAs Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., and manager of NOAAs UAS program. Data gathered by unmanned aircraft can help us understand how humans are affecting the planet and how we might mitigate the impacts of natural disasters resulting from severe weather and climate.

Starting this summer, unmanned aircraft will take instruments on research flights that are too dangerous or too long for pilots and scientists. NOAA, working with university and industry partners, will lead three test projects:

  • Atlantic and Gulf Hurricanes: Between August 1 and October 31, small unmanned vehicles will fly into the eye of Atlantic and Caribbean hurricanes at low altitudes too risky for crewed aircraft. The data will help experts diagnose maximum wind speeds and storm physics to improve hurricane intensity forecasts.
  • Arctic Climate Change: Later this year, a larger unmanned aircraft will observe sea ice conditions and track the locations of seal populations as the climate warms. Ice and atmospheric data will help scientists figure out how clouds, soot, and other airborne particles are helping to melt Arctic ice faster than climate models project from greenhouse gases alone. Contact: Anatta anatta@noaa.gov 303-497-6288 NOAA Research Source:Eurekalert

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