89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Monday, 12 January 2009: 10:45 AM
Exploring the potential of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to meet NOAA mission requirements involving weather, water, climate and marine ecosystems
Room 130 (Phoenix Convention Center)
F. Martin Ralph, NOAA / ESRL, Boulder, CO; and A. MacDonald
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are an advanced technology that is becoming available for potential civilian uses after decades of development driven by defense-oriented needs. The range of UAS capabilities is vast and rapidly evolving. This emerging technology has the potential to revolutionize monitoring of the Earth system, as profoundly as it has military operations. UAS impacts on Earth system monitoring, prediction and science could be comparable in the coming decades to those of radar and satellite systems, each of which also originated partly from military needs.

In recognition of this potential, NOAA has begun a concerted effort to explore UAS technology as a potential tool to meet a variety of NOAA mission requirements, including Arctic climate change, hurricane science and prediction, water resources information and marine ecosystem monitoring. This exploration is being conducted in very close partnership with NASA, as well as with other agencies, universities and the UAS industry. The NOAA UAS Project received its first direct funding in FY08, and is envisioned to grow significantly in the coming years.

This presentation will summarize the major objectives of the NOAA UAS Project, including the range of applications being addressed, and platforms and sensors being tested. It will also describe challenges associated with implementing UAS broadly and techniques being used to evaluate the cost effectiveness of UAS solutions relative to other approaches, e.g., manned aircraft, satellites, etc. The recommendations that emerge from this exploratory phase of the UAS project will inform go-no-go decisions on implementation of UAS for NOAA's long-term operations in Earth system monitoring, prediction and science.

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