Have you ever wondered how drones help us with our weather forecasts? Read on to find out more about the amazing uses of drones in the field of weather prediction.
Drones have come a long way after their debut a few years back. Drone technology today is able to put them to good use across several crucial applications.
Weather forecasting is an important topic where drones have come to play a big role we just can’t overlook.
In this write-up, I have given my research findings on the topic ‘how drones are helping with weather forecast’.
This post will answer some interesting questions like what makes a weather drone and how it is used to predict the weather.
How Drones Are Helping With Weather Forecasts?
What are weather drones?
Weather Drones refer to the class of drones that are exclusively designed to fulfill the requirements of the weather forecasts.
They are flown in the atmospheric layer called the boundary layer, the lowest one in the earth’s atmosphere.
Weather drones have the sensors necessary to collect information pertaining to temperature, wind, and humidity in the atmosphere.
The main purpose of weather drones is to enhance the existing weather forecast models.
When compared to the traditional data collecting methods, there is a big advantage in using drones to gather atmospheric samples.
The application of drones in weather forecasting has helped improve the accuracy of our weather forecasting models.
Achieving an accurate weather forecasting model means a big step forward in both short-term and long-term weather forecasts.
With the advent of drones in weather forecasting, meteorologists are now able to give us a more reliable weather forecast for 10 days in advance.
Drones bring a definite advantage across some challenging weather forecast subjects. They help issue more advanced warnings for tornados. They make it possible to forecast when and where hurricanes will land.
How weather drones do their job
Most weather changes happen within the lowest atmospheric layer known as the boundary layer. The weather conditions we confront on a daily basis depending on a long list of factors and variables.
A complex kind of weather forecast model is required to make accurate predictions on how the weather will behave next.
However, the accuracy levels of the output in these models will highly depend on the data we feed into these systems.
Getting good data is not an easy job and here comes the crucial importance of drones in weather-related data collection.
We can fly weather drones vertically through the whole of boundary layer in the atmosphere to gather important data on different components of weather like temperature, air pressure, wind speed, wind direction, and moisture.
Weather drones can gather weather-related data in different ways. One obvious way is by gathering data on humidity and air pressure through the sensors attached to the drones directly.
One another way they gather weather data is by dropping down sensors known as dropsondes connected to a parachute from a high altitude.
As the dropsondes descends in a vertical fashion through the boundary layer, it gathers data all the way downwards.
One another important way whether drones gather data is by using visual imaging which includes photographs and videos.
What has changed with the modern weather drones
Traditionally, weather balloons and weather stations have been used by scientists to gather weather data for the purpose of modeling.
One downside to using weather stations for this purpose is their stationary location and proximity to the surface of the earth.
Even the weather station that is located on top of a skyscraper or tower is actually earthbound with no added advantage.
A weather station can’t be useful to gather data from the upper strata of the boundary layer.
Though weather balloons can go much higher up than weather stations, the inability to control them put them at a disadvantage.
Their movement follows the wind’s direction and they can’t be retrieved. They can’t land from where they have been launched.
Weather forecasting models also depend on satellites to gather weather-related data. Though satellites help gather data on cloud formation and water vapor, they are not that useful to measure temperature, wind, or humidity.
In fact, they are positioned much above the boundary layer where most weather phenomena occur.
Drones that can fly for long ranges in high altitudes with fixed wings have also been used historically for weather data collection.
However, their limitations are similar to those of satellites. Also, they are very expensive to operate.
Airplanes have been used to gather weather data, especially during storms. However, they are also expensive options. Sending a pilot to high-risk areas during extreme weather is never a desirable option.
Drones do not have any of the limitations we could list above. It is easy to fly a drone at high altitudes.
For data collection, recently scientists have got permission to fly a drone at an altitude of 3,500 meters above ground level for the purpose of data collection.
At such a height, even a standard type of consumer quadcopter will not have any trouble in operating except the maximum flight restriction of 400ft AGL.
Drones can be even sent inside the storm or high wind to collect data. It is easy to control drones at such great heights.
Since drones can return to the earth after their job is over, it is possible to send expensive equipment and sensors with them, which is not practically possible in a weather balloon.
Latest developments you will admire in weather drones
Several studies are underway to use drones for weather data collection. One such study is directly related to scientists working for NOAA.
They are conducting a short-term field study in some regions of the US to discover how the land surface and terrains impact weather patterns.
Their goal is to find out how the weather is impacted by land surface and how to use those variables to study climate and weather.
One another project managed at the University of Oklahoma by Professor Phillip Chilson is in its developmental stage but has immense potential to transform the domain of weather forecast and meteorological science.
He has advocated the installation of weather station towers across the nation, equipping each of them with a fleet of weather drones that can operate autonomously.
From each of these stations, these drones will be deployed hourly to gather the data that can be fed into weather models.
The purpose is to depend on a huge amount of data that will aid in an efficient and reliable study that none of the methods employed at present can assure us.
There are also suggestions to maintain a swarm of interconnected drones at every station that can be deployed automatically during storm conditions.
These drones can be controlled by AI to find out where they are flying and if they are collecting reliable data. This data will be fed into weather prediction systems.
How do weather drones impact some crucial weather issues
More data from the wide geography of the entire nation from several levels of the boundary layer will help enhance the accuracy of weather forecast models.
The measurements gathered by storm drones can help scientists evaluate the weather models used at present.
Scientists working on such data collection programs can collaborate with the local weather service forecast models thereby aiding in more accurate weather forecasts when it comes to local weather reporting.
While the accuracy and dependability of weather forecasts are a big question in front of us, the evolution of more accurate models can change that in future.
The importance of reliable and accurate weather forecasting cannot be underestimated. Dependable weather predictions can make way to effective planning and mitigating weather-bound risks across different sectors.
When storms are underway, reliable weather forecast models can help bring down their impact on people and property.
In regions facing high risk from tornados, the present early warning time average is only 16 minutes.
This means the residents in these regions can be alerted in the event of a tornado striking them only 16 minutes before the calamity.
This limitation does not leave the target population with enough time for evacuating or take cover.
Drone-driven data inputted into weather forecast systems can help predict tornados at least an hour before, providing people with better opportunities to secure their lives and property.
Existing weather forecast systems also find it very difficult to predict hurricanes. Hurricanes can take unexpected paths. It is just not possible now to predict when they might intensify or disperse.
Drones have improved the ability to collect data from inside an active storm; hence, meteorologists and weather scientists can now make better predictions about the intensity and routes taken by hurricane storms.
Such possibilities have opened up gates to making well-informed decisions with regard to evacuation, deciding where to depute the emergency response teams, and implementing storm surge prevention strategies well in advance.
Use of drones to transform different robust applications in different industry segments is still in the experimental stage.
Drones are said to feature the best technology ever to gather reliable and accurate data for weather forecasting.
Drone technology is still improving and there is still a long way to go. The challenges we face today with regard to weather drones include increasing their ability to fly in poor weather conditions, enhancing the accuracy of the sensors measuring different weather conditions, and making the programming of swarm drone technology more efficient.
The developments in these lines can enhance the ability of weather drones to transform the way we gather weather data and use it for weather forecasting.