Meteorological Support for Unmanned Aerial Systems at Dugway Proving Ground

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Susan Krippner, Dugway Proving Ground West Desert Test Center, Dugway, UT; and E. N. Vernon and J. Pace

Handout (980.3 kB)

The Program Manager for Unmanned Aerial Systems (PM-UAS) recently became a permanent tenant activity at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground (DPG). PM-UAS operates multiple UAS aircraft at DPG, from lightweight aircraft to long range, heavy aircraft. This presentation describes traditional and innovative techniques used by the DPG Meteorology Division to support this new mission. In addition to an extremely dense network of surface weather stations and a variety of upper air and remote sensing capabilities (including rawinsondes, a vertically pointed Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FM-CW) radar, two Doppler weather surveillance radars, sodars, ceilometers, lidars, and profilers), DPG uses a state of the art weather modeling capability. The Four Dimensional Weather System (4DWX) combines an operational continuous real-time data assimilation system with the WRF model, to generate model forecasted winds, temperature and RH every 500 feet on a 3.3 km grid from the surface to 20,000 ft MSL. UAS-support products currently being added to the 4DWX output set include forecasted altimeter settings, pressure altitudes, and density altitudes. The 4DWX model cycle is updated every three hours to provide a more accurate picture of flight level winds, temperatures, and cloud ceiling heights. A 30-member operational mesoscale ensemble provides estimates of uncertainty in the 4DWX output. A 20-year climatology study using observations and the 4DWX system provides weather parameters at 1000 ft increments over the entire range. These observational and model products help DPG forecasters determine when conditions are within the various aircraft's weather restrictions, especially in adverse and colder weather when turbulence and icing forecasts are critical for UAS safety.