NASA Global Hawk to Improve Hurricane Forecasting in Atlantic Ocean Basin

By Mike Ball / 10 Sep 2015

NASA Global HawkCherokee Nation Technologies (CNT), a tribally owned company of the Cherokee Nation, has announced that it is working alongside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA to advance weather forecasting capabilities. The joint effort aims to harness the observational power of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to form forecast models for the National Hurricane Center.

“This work is a wonderful representation of what we can achieve when organizations work together,” said Steven Bilby, president of Cherokee Nation’s diversified businesses. “Unmanned aircrafts provide a unique vantage point for weather observations, and these advancements allow us the opportunity to learn more about severe weather in uncertain environments without risking the well-being of a pilot or scientist.”

The partnering agencies are directing a series of flights over the Atlantic Ocean basin with an unmanned aircraft to collect data on temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction. The flights build on previous research led by NASA and offer NOAA scientists the opportunity to test UAS capabilities for use as meteorological observation tools.

NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft System, the Global Hawk, provides a continuous stream of data from 60,000 feet above the ocean, an altitude nearly 20,000 feet higher than manned aircrafts. The aircraft is also able to gather weather data continuously for up to 24 hours.

Cherokee Nation Technologies Director of Unmanned Systems John “JC” Coffey is part of the mission’s project management team. Coffey, a retired naval aviator and Department of Defense acquisition professional, joined CNT in 2014 to expand and advance the company’s capabilities in unmanned systems.

“CNT provides the NOAA UAS program with a full spectrum of services in science, technology and operations,” said Coffey. “We work diligently to support program management, systems engineering, data management, testing and evaluation, and more to ensure this cutting-edge technology can be utilized in the most challenging environments.”

The 2015 inaugural flight departed from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia headed directly towards Tropical Storm Erika. The mission produced invaluable information about the storm and successfully returned. This is the first time real-time information has been provided to hurricane forecasters.

“The work we are doing with the Global Hawk is unlike anything we have been able to achieve in the past,” said John Walker, CNT employee and NOAA project scientist. “We are getting closer to storms than ever before and are hopeful that our new perspective will allow us to enhance our ability to predict severe weather and potentially save lives.”

The Global Hawk flights are the preliminary phase of NOAA’s four-year mission, called “Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology,” or SHOUT. The SHOUT mission is closely coordinated with NOAA’s ongoing hurricane field program, which also provides dropsonde, flight level and tail Doppler radar data from the NOAA P-3 and G-IV manned aircraft for the HWRF operational model. SHOUT is funded in part by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, passed by Congress in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Sandy.

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact