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Drone development aims to fill severe weather prediction gap

Drone development aims to fill severe weather prediction gap

June 11th, 2019 by Associated Press in Features

OKLAHOMA CITY—Researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University are jointly developing drone technology to more accurately forecast the weather.

Phil Chilson, professor at the OU School of Meteorology, said the university has tried to use drones in meteorology since 2008, but their efforts advanced in 2015 with National Science Foundation funding, The Journal Record reported.

A "long-recognized lack of observation" in the bottom 2 miles (3 kilometers) of the atmosphere hinders storm forecasting, Chilson said.

While existing radar can correctly show what is happening inside storm cells, such as the height and position of a hail core, it struggles with external factors such as a possible influx of cold or warm, moist air that can fortify a storm. Also, data collection via radar can be expensive, Chilson said.

"The surge of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) has really opened up a lot of doors for us," Chilson said. "This is really is a revolutionary period in meteorology."

OU's research focuses on the meteorology side and what type of data and equipment is needed on the drone. OSU is focused on developing the drones. Both schools are working through regulatory concerns with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Chilson said the teams aim to establish 100 to 150 stations around Oklahoma, building on an established network of weather-monitoring stations.

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