3B.2 Collaboration Leading Operational Unmanned Development for Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics Flight Campaign

Thursday, 26 January 2017: 1:45 PM
Conference Center: Chelan 4 (Washington State Convention Center )
Jamey Jacob, Oklahoma State Univ., Stillwater, OK; and P. B. Chilson, A. Houston, and S. Smith

CLOUD MAP is a 4 year, 4 university collaboration to develop capabilities that will allow meteorologists and atmospheric scientists to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as a common, useful everyday tool. Currently, we know that systems can be used for meteorological measurements, but they are far from being practical or robust for everyday field diagnostics by the average meteorologist or scientist. In particular, UAS are well suited for the lower atmosphere, namely the lower boundary layer that has a large impact on the atmosphere and where much of the weather phenomena begin. Due to the boundary layer’s proximity to the ground and its transient nature, current technologies have severe limitations in providing detailed measurements: manned aircraft are too dangerous or expensive to fly near the ground; radar cannot see over the horizon and do not measure all of the important thermodynamic parameters forecasters need; and weather balloons have too short of a duration at low altitudes to provide useful information, particular during transient events such as severe storms or fronts. As such, there is a persistent and pressing need to collect better observations of the ABL. Having a better understanding of the kinematic and thermodynamic structure of the atmospheric boundary layer (ABL), especially at small “mesoscale” time and space scales, impacts many areas of meteorology, such as improvements to: numerical weather prediction modeling through better ABL parameterization; our ability to forecast the development and evolution of severe storms, assessments of air quality in and around urban areas; the quality of information provided to the wind energy sector; and so forth. It has been clearly stated in such recent reports as those provided by the National Research Council and instrumentation workshops [e.g., NRC, 2009], that observing systems capable of providing detailed profiles of temperature, moisture, and winds within the ABL are needed to monitor the lower atmosphere and help determine the potential for severe weather development. Unfortunately, operationally available observations of ABL variability of the scope and across the scales needed by the meteorological community are currently not available. The over arching goal of this objective is on the development, evaluation and application of complete UAS system packages capable of acquiring needed meteorological and atmospheric data miniaturized, high-precision, and fast-response atmospheric sensors for wind and thermodynamic measurements along with measurements of air chemistry soil moisture, etc., relevant to climate science as a whole. 

In particular, robust coordinated control of multiple UAS is needed for routine operations in the NAS. There is a need to optimize control, coordination and communication and examine the resulting impact that these systems have for characterization of the data. The over arching goal of this objective is to explore a multi-platform approach for observing needed mesoscale atmospheric and meteorological observations with UAS and gain experience in deploying the platforms, collecting atmospheric measurements, and coordinating operations among different UAS teams.  This presentation will present results of this year's flight campaign at sites in Oklahoma, which include flights of over 12 systems and nearly 250 flights over a 3 day period.  Partners include Oklahoma State University, the Univ. of Oklahoma, the Univ. of Kentucky, and the Univ. of Nebraska.

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