Gliding Unmanned Meteorological Platform (GUMP)

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Sunday, 4 January 2015
Brett F. Dean, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Bunnell, FL

The goal of this project is to develop, test, and deploy a gliding UAS to collect wind speeds and direction, pressure, temperature, and moisture data within the atmosphere. The UAS will be able to operate autonomously without user guidance by using Global Positioning System (GPS) to pre-programmed way points. The UAS will use automated piloting technology to make it easily deployable and recoverable without utilizing a runway or a fixed ground recovery mechanism. The UAS will be constructed out of Styrofoam with an aluminum shaft strengthening skeleton. The 700 gram UAS is deployed using a 1000 gram weather balloon from already established FAA approved launch stations and collects data much like current radiosondes. The UAS will be electronically visible to aviation using GPS therefore making it safer than radiosondes currently in use. Multiple landing sites can be programmed so that should the sonde encounter conditions making return to the original launch site impossible it will divert automatically to a pre-arranged secondary recovery point. A Vaisala radiosonde shall be modified to make the sonde immediately reusable without refurbishment. Currently stations launch 730 sondes annually (two per day) at an approximate annual cost of $113,000. This UAS will not only reduce the financial burden of collecting upper air data but will allow many stations in developing countries the affordability of collecting data. With the addition of accurate collected data in areas that were previously devoid, global numerical modeling can be drastically improved. Once the sonde proves to be successful, a propeller driven version will be explored making collection of planetary boundary layer meteorological conditions easily obtainable for both forecasting and research purposes. Having the ability to take a ‘snap-shot' vertical cross section of the atmosphere at any time enables meteorologists to improve forecast timing on meteorological events, thereby increasing lead time on severe storm forecasts. The UAS can be deployed at fixed meteorological stations or deployed in the field such as tornado alley. Outfitting the UAS with an ADS-B positioning indicator will make the UAS visible to aviation increasing the safety factor over that of a balloon launched radiosonde.