New scientific breakthroughs and the future development of innovative products will depend on having a comprehensive computing infrastructure and systems that are scalable, accessible, reliable, and constantly improving their performance levels. RENCI's high performance computing research includes work in performance evaluation, optimization, input/output, and data access and federation. Our goal is to make these tools and resources accessible and easy to use so that researchers can concentrate on answering the big questions in science. The Disaster Research Group at RENCI is creating IT infrastructure to aid in environmental modeling and in predicting hurricanes, flooding, icing, severe storms, and their aftermaths in North Carolina. RENCI is committed to working with policy makers and first responders on accurate, real-time modeling of disaster scenarios in order to develop disaster response plans that protect lives, homes and businesses.
One project currently being pursued is the RENCI Outreach Vehicles for Education and Research (ROVER), of which there will be four or five created over the next several years. The first of these vehicles, named Air ROVER, is designed to be utilized after a disaster, such as a flood or icing event, in which the infrastructure of the disaster area is destroyed or damaged. Recovery and response to the disaster is a function of infrastructure and it is key that information is gathered and disseminated in real-time. However, this can be difficult when there is little or no data or communications. With this in mind, RENCI designed Air ROVER, which is a 6 m (20 feet) flat bed truck that houses an aerostat which can be elevated up to 150 m (500 ft) after a disaster. Attached to this balloon are a weather station with instruments that measure temperature, wind speed, and humidity, a pan-tilt-zoom video camera, and a wireless internet access point. With these tools on Air ROVER, we can gather weather data, provide visuals of the disaster region, and supply internet access to an estimated 8-16 km (5-10 mile) radius around the vehicle. Also included on the truck is a satellite system. Thus, with the wireless internet and the satellite downlink, data being collected in the region can be sent to first responders at a remote command post who need information from the disaster area in order to make informed decisions on disaster response. Examples of data that could be collected include data from wireless sensors such as rain or stream gauges, temperature sensors, and other important information such as the number of houses destroyed in an area. Air ROVER will be developed and tested over the next several months.