The University of Colorado Boulder has been named as the lead research institution on a 1.9 million dollar federal grant to develop drones designed to provide enhanced monitoring and data-based research of severe storms.
The project, named “Severe-Storm Targeted Observation and Robotic Monitoring” or “STORM” will try to increase drones’ current ability to collect data during extreme weather events. Researchers will work to add autonomous airborne sensors combined with environmental modeling to drones to help scientists better understand the fundamental behavior of severe weather events. The drones will be developed over the next 2 years, and the project will culminate in onsite research and testing with scientists from Texas Tech and several partner institutions to be carried out in those areas of the western United States commonly known as “tornado alley.”
Scientist say that the specific goals of the project are to improve accuracy and lead time of tornado warnings; to improve firefighting forecasts and help to develop the use of unmanned aircraft in firefighting; and to enhance predictions of timing and location of hurricane landfalls. The enhanced drones could also be used to forecast outcomes and measure airborne pollution as a result of toxic spills or other industrial accidents.
The 3-year NSF grant, part of the National Robotics Initiative launched in 2011 to expand and develop the use of research robots, will be led by CU-Boulder’s Interdisciplinary Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles (RECUV.) The STORM grant follows the center’s 2014 successful application for designation by the FAA as one of six test sites for unmanned aircraft systems. The FAA designation was designed to create drone research hubs across the country, drawing expertise from government, science and industry in order to develop drone use in all sectors.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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