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Hurricane Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Demonstration Project 2006

Principal Investigator:
Joseph Cione
Key Collaborators:
Nick Carrasco (HRD/CIMAS)
Peter Bale (Aerosonde Corporation)
Greg Holland (NCAR/Mesoscale And Microscale Meteorology Division)
Peter Turlington (NASA/Wallops Flight Facility)
Chris Sisko (NOAA/Tropical Prediction Center)

Aerosonde Corp.

NASA's Wallops Flight Facility

The primary objective of this project is to demonstrate the Aerosonde platform's overall capabilities (including survivability) in a hurricane environment.

Four key scientific objectives would be to :

  • Fully explore Aerosonde's potential to effectively observe critical regions of the tropical cyclone boundary layer environment.

  • Conduct low level missions into the eyewall region of hurricanes at altitudes of 300m or lower.

  • Conduct several low level flights into several tropical cyclones including multiple aircraft missions.

  • Continue to transmit real-time surface wind, pressure, and thermodynamic data to NOAA's OAR in direct support of operational requirements.

  • Undertake research aimed at improve understanding of the high-wind boundary layer and the exchanges of heat, moisture, and momentum across the oceanic surface.

  • Provide calibration and verification data sets for NASA.

  • As a direct result of improved understanding of the hurricane boundary layer and air-sea environment, look for potential opportunities to contribute towards future operational model development.

  • Look at using these unique new data to establish new NOAA operational goals and requirements.


Conduct a Hurricane Aerosonde Demonstration Project in Key West

The demonstration project is scheduled to run for thirty days, from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30, 2006, in cooperation with Aerosonde Corp., NASA, and the U.S. Navy. The Aerosondes will be deployed at Key West Naval Air Station (NASKW), and will have an approximate 300 nautical mile operational radius from the deployment base.

Single or multiple Aerosonde experiments will be coordinated with NOAA and AFRES aircraft missions during the 2006 demo. The following experiments are possible:

  1. Inflow Experiment - Sample the tropical cyclone inflow layer's thermodynamic structure by flying within 500 feet of the surface in the inner core, spiraling in on the winds of the storm. The continuous observations of very low level winds may result in establishing the location and magnitude of storm's maximum wind speed.

  2. Tropical Cyclone Thermodynamic Asymmetry Experiment - The Aerosonde would fly a fixed radius orbit (~200 km from the center) either prior to or after its spiral in toward the center in order to improve the radial accuracy of the 34kt, 50kt, and 64kt wind estimates.

  3. Eye Sounding Experiment - The Aerosonde would make a corkscrew sounding within the eye up to 10,000 feet, to find any early detection signal of rapid intensity changes. This would require a clear, discernible eye when there are no AFRES flights in progress and with close coordination with any NOAA flights at the time of the sounding.

Simply stated, continuous observation of thermodynamic (temperature and moisture) and kinematic (wind) structure of the near-surface hurricane environment has never been documented in a hurricane. This environment, where the atmosphere meets the sea, is critically important since it is where the ocean's warm water energy is directly transferred to the atmosphere just above it. The TC surface layer is also important because it is where we find the strongest winds in a hurricane and coincidentally, the level at which most of us live (i.e. at/near the surface). As such, observing and ultimately better understanding this region of the storm is crucial if we hope to improve our ability to make accurate forecasts of TC intensity change. Enhancing this predictive capability would not only save our economy billions of dollars but more importantly it would save countless lives.

Funding for this project comes from NASA, NOAA/NMAO, NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, and NOAA Hurricane Research Division.


Key references:

  • Cione, J.J., and E. W. Uhlhorn 2003: Sea surface temperature variability in hurricanes: Implications with respect to intensity change. Mon. Wea. Rev., v.131, pp.1783-1796
  • Wroe, D.R. and G.M. Barnes 2003: Inflow Layer Energetics of Hurricane Bonnie (1998) near Landfall. Mon. Wea. Rev. v.131 pp. 1600-1612
  • Cione, J.J., P. J. Black and S. Houston 2000: Surface observations in the hurricane environment. Mon. Wea. Rev, v.128 pp.1550-1561
  • Dunion, J.P., and C.S. Velden, 2004: The impact of the Saharan Air Layer on Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., v.85 no. 3, pp.353-365

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Last modified: 7/25/2006

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