Scientists gather to talk about using Unmanned Aerial Systems for weather research

UAS Scottsbluff, NE
University of Colorado’s Brian Argrow (with back to the camera) and graduate assistant Jason Roadman assemble the Tempest UAS prior to launch into a supercell near Scottsbluff, NE, June 2010.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) are becoming increasingly important as instrument platforms for remote and in-situ observations of the atmosphere just above the ground. Their adaptability, potential ease of deployment, and low cost make them an attractive research option. NSSL scientists will participate in the annual meeting of the International Society on Atmospheric Research using Remotely-piloted Aircraft (ISARRA) in Norman, Oklahoma, May 20 to 22 to share knowledge about using these aircraft systems to observe and monitor the atmosphere.

Topics presented by NSSL include using UASs as part of a composite observing system for predicting the formation and evolution of severe convective storms, roles for UAS in the 2016 VORTEX-Southeast project, and ground radar support of UAS operations with Multi-function Phased Array Radar (MPAR).

Using UASs for research is a developing endeavor. A University of Colorado (CU) UAS team successfully probed the rear-flank downdraft of a tornadic supercell in northeast Colorado during the second Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment in 2009. With NSSL support, in June 2013, a CU, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and NSSL team flew a UAS in coordination with an NSSL mobile mesonet (vehicle with atmospheric instruments) to sample outflows from several supercells in northeast Colorado.
These interactions support the NOAA goal of investing in observational infrastructure, and NOAA’s science mission to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts.