News

NOAA and Duke University Examine UAS-based Approaches for Coastal Wetland Monitoring

Article and Figures Provided By: Jenny Davis (NOS/NCCOS)

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Project team: NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), Duke University Marine Robotics Laboratory and Remote Sensing Laboratory, North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) and North Inlet-Winyah Bay NERR.

The core mission of NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) includes stewardship of sensitive coastal habitats like those of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), a collection of 29 sites nationwide where NOS and States partner to promote research, education, and preservation of estuarine ecosystems. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) can improve tidal wetland monitoring by providing high spatial resolution and coverage, with customizable sensors, at user-defined times.

This NOS National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) research project, supported by the NOAA Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (UxSRTO), develops methods for the incorporation of Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) to expand routine wetland monitoring programs like those conducted by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS).

NOAA GML Scientists Successfully Test the “High-Altitude Operational Returning Uncrewed System” Glider with AirCore Science Package to 75,000 feet MSL

Article and Figures Provided By: Colm Sweeney and Bianca Baier

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Recent flight testing of the “High-altitude Operational Returning Uncrewed System” (HORUS) at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center and Edwards Air Force Base, California between May 13-25, 2021 marks a huge success within NOAA. Scientists from NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML) and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) tested the ability to launch and recover the uncrewed HORUS glider and its AirCore science payload with operations up to 75,000 ft above mean sea level (MSL). The reusable platform and AirCore instrument ascended into the upper atmosphere, attached to a balloon before being released. It then collected air samples vertically from 72,000 ft MSL down to a predetermined landing spot during its remotely controlled, designed, spiraling descent. Reaching speeds of more than 200 knots at the beginning of the glide phase, HORUS was able to make up for the downwind drift caused by the 60+ knot wind speeds it had encountered around 40,000 feet MSL during its earlier balloon ascent. The successful testing brings the NOAA/OMAO Uncrewed Systems Operation Center (UxSOC) funded; and NOAA/OAR Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (UxSRTO) supported HORUS development to a Readiness Level of 8. This marks an exciting opportunity for many other NOAA atmospheric research stakeholders because HORUS enables the deployment and retrieval of high-value, balloon-borne packages from a designated launch and recovery location, even when strong mid-level wind conditions can be expected.  With the HORUS, scientists can much more efficiently collect critical, higher-accuracy atmospheric measurements from all over the world to help improve weather and climate models, which have been limited until now because of the inability to effectively retrieve and reuse valuable sensor packages in areas where conditions and a lack of such technology have prohibited the realization of this novel concept.

NOAA PSL and L3Harris Complete miniFlux Payload Integration and Flight Tests

Article Provided By: Kenneth Vierra (Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs/UxS Research Transition Office), Gijs de Boer (NOAA PSL/CIRES/CU) and Janet Intrieri (NOAA/PSL)

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With funding and logistical support from the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Uncrewed Systems Research Transition Office (UxSRTO), in addition to the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) Clear and Cloudy Sky payloads, the NOAA OAR Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL), together with partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing (IRISS) program at the University of Colorado Boulder developed the miniFlux sensor suite for operation on the L3Harris Latitude Fixed Wing Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Rotator (FVR-55).  miniFlux is a collection of complementary systems and sensors selected to provide robust and accurate measurements of atmospheric thermodynamic and kinematic states. miniFlux carries sensors to make redundant measurements of temperature, humidity, and pressure, in addition to nadir and zenith thermal IR temperatures and sensors to provide a three dimensional wind measurement. In combination, these measurements, combined with accurate inertial position and orientation measurements collected by the miniFlux system, enable for estimation of atmospheric energy transfer conditions.

On May 6, 2021 L3Harris and PSL successfully completed payload integration and flight testing at the Florence, AZ test flight area. The miniFlux was mounted on the wing of the FVR-55.

Final engineering checkout is planned with L3Harris Latitude FVR-55 and NOAA PMEL and PSL payloads on the Commercial 96' vessel TowBoatU.S. Richard L. Becker, this summer.  NOAA staff from UxSRTO, OMAO UxSOC, PMEL, and PSL will be on the boat as well as the UAS team from L3Harris.

NOAA PMEL and L3Harris Complete Cloudy Sky and Clear Sky Payload Integration and Flight Tests

Article Provided By: Kenneth Vierra (Cherokee Nation Strategic Programs/UxS Research Transition Office), Patricia Quinn (NOAA/PMEL), Tim Bates (CICOES University of Washington/PMEL), Derek Coffman (NOAA/PMEL)

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As a continuation of the research, the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) UxS Research Transition Office awarded L3Harris a Phase III follow-on contract for the continued development of the FVR-55. This contract is to support shipboard operations and scientific payload integration on the FVR-55. Flight tests were completed on February 17, 2020 off the M/V Richard L. Becker out of Fort Lauderdale, FL to demonstrate autonomous takeoff and recovery from a moving vessel at-sea.  L3Harris completed all objectives and demonstrated fully autonomous flight using Hybrid Quadrotor (HQ) technology from a moving ship with limited deck space.

On March 22-26, 2021 the NOAA PMEL team joined the L3Harris staff at their facility in Tucson, AZ to complete bench and initial flight testing (Florence, AZ test flight area) of the Cloudy and Clear Sky payloads to verify the payloads functionality. The two payloads measure the aerosol and cloud properties required for the observation of aerosol direct radiative effects (Clear Sky payload) and impacts of aerosols on clouds (Cloudy Sky Payload).

National Severe Storms Laboratory High-Wind Damage Assessment Following Severe Weather Events

Article Provided By: Melissa Wagner (NSSL/CIMMS)

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National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) / Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) will document high-wind damage immediately following high-wind events in the Southeast US from February 15th to April 30th, 2021. UAS platforms will be deployed to collect high-resolution imagery of storm damage affected areas:

1) To better characterize high-wind damage to vegetation and in rural areas.

2) To better link signatures from remote sensing platforms (radars and satellites) to impacts at the ground to improve understanding of severe storm-level dynamics.

To learn more about NSSL UAS operations and objectives refer to the flowing link: https://inside.nssl.noaa.gov/uas/

Disclosure: The proposed UAS operations would not involve any intentional collection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Any accidental or “inadvertent” PII collection would be obscured or deleted through irreversible pixel blurring, pixel blocking using overlaid shapes/symbols, and permanent cropping. For more information on Privacy refer to the following: Privacy Act of 1974 - 5 USC 552a. Additionally, NSSL/CIMMS would not intentionally fly over individuals. Although consent may not be obtained, there is minimal impact to individuals because NSSL/CIMMS would not retain any PII through the obscuration methods detailed above.

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