NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems

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NOAA to test climate data-gathering drones

From UPI.com 1/22/2008

BOULDER, Colo., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Unmanned aircraft may soon be flying into hurricanes and over the Arctic ice to test if they can be used on risky flights, a U.S. agency announced Tuesday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said $3 million has been allocated to test the use of drones on flights too dangerous for human crews.

"This technology has the potential to revolutionize our monitoring of the entire Earth," said Marty Ralph, research meteorologist at the Earth System Research Laboratory in Colorado. "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."

The first test will be this summer when unmanned craft will be sent into Atlantic hurricanes, flying at low altitudes that would not be possible for pilots. A larger drone will be used on flights over the Arctic to observe sea ice and seal populations.

In spring 2009, drones will be used to study "atmospheric rivers" in the Pacific -- long arms of moisture that can bring heavy rain and snow to the West Coast.

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