13B.3 NOAA's utilization of Coyote unmanned aircraft systems for tropical cyclone research

Thursday, 13 May 2010: 10:45 AM
Arizona Ballroom 2-5 (JW MArriott Starr Pass Resort)
LCDR Nancy Ash, NOAA, MacDill AFB, FL; and J. J. Cione

In 2009, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), partnered with the U.S. Navy and BAE Systems, completed the first successful demonstration flight of a Coyote Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) from a P-3 aircraft. The demonstration was the first step towards evaluating the Coyote system for use in tropical cyclone (TC) research. During the demonstration flight, the UAS completed flight maneuvers similar to those required for valuable low-altitude TC research, as well as demonstrating critical safety modes of flight. Meteorological data was streamed from the UAS to the command and control station in the P-3 and data were compared with dropwindsonde observations collected during the UAS flight. The Coyote flight from the P-3 demonstrated the potential for the UAS as a research tool; the elimination of ingress and egress to/from the TC environment is a valuable benefit to potential applications. The project is now moving forward with instrumentation development and integration. Next steps include the development of a meteorological payload for the Coyote, clear air testing, and operational integration of the UAS in TC conditions.

To date, the primary mission objective has been to strategically utilize UAS's in order to better document areas of the storm that are either impossible or impractical to observe. A major success of low-altitude UAS's in TC aircraft operations is their immediate operational impact. The UAS data should improve our understanding of the hurricane boundary-layer and will provide invaluable ground truth for satellite and aircraft remote sensor measurements. Analyses from the recent UAS demonstration mission and plans for the project will be presented.

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