Low-altitude, short-endurance Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) can help fill this data void. The concept we have been exploring is that of profiling, rotary-wing UAS to obtain vertical profiles of winds, temperature, and humidity within the lowest 2,500 ft of the atmosphere every 30 min at fixed locations, in combination with fixed-wing observing systems between the copter sites in order to measure the spatial heterogeneity of the atmosphere between the sites. In the presentation, results will be shown validating UAS sensor measurements against data from mobile sounding systems and ground-based remote sensing systems (Doppler wind lidar, sonic anemometer, and infrared interferometer profiling systems). We will also discuss the value of these data as determined by National Weather Service (NWS) forecaster evaluation in a real-time experiment held in May 2017.
The ultimate goal is to provide targeted, adaptive, and fully autonomous sampling within FAA-approved regions that would be executed by the NWS as needed when severe weather threatens. The desired outcome would be that the data could be shown useful for initializing high-resolution “Warn On Forecast” models aimed at making a one hour tornado warning a reality. We will discuss the current regulatory limitations preventing realization of this ultimate objective, but also what has been learned with current systems and steps to be taken toward this goal.