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UAS Program Director Robbie Hood Retires after 30 Years of Government Service

Her award winning career with NASA and NOAA culminates with the formation of the NOAA UAS Program and successful introduction of UAS to NOAA.

UAS Program Director, Robbie Hood retired on September 29th after 30 Years of Government Service.  Her award winning career with NASA and NOAA culminated with the formation of the NOAA UAS Program and successful introduction of UAS to NOAA.

While she led the program through numerous “First-of-a-Kind” milestones, SHOUT was the highpoint.  The Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT) project evaluated the observing strategy of deploying a high altitude, long endurance NASA Global Hawk Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to mitigate risk of high impact weather forecasting due to satellite data gaps. Through analysis it was assessed that, “The Concept of Operations are affordable and feasible, and that “High-altitude dropsondes from long endurance reconnaissance missions have shown significant impact on forecast improvements for hurricane track and intensity (>15%).”   This exceeded project goals.

Other key technology advancements her program participated in included: the advanced-concepting through transition to operations of using UAS for gravimetric surveys; sponsoring operationalization of UAS to the National Ocean Service and National Marine Fisheries Service; and  introducing UAS rapid response operations for the National Weather Service, National Ocean Service and interagency partners in including Polar operations onboard U.S. Coast Guard Icebreakers.

An internationally recognized atmospheric scientist and a descendant of the first elected chief of the Cherokee Nation, Robbie was chosen to lead NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program in 2008 moving from NASA. The fledgling UAS program received $3 million in direct support for fiscal year 2008 and was expected to grow as the agency experiments with its use of unmanned aircraft for climate and weather research, ecosystem assessments, improving forecasts, and other applications.

“Unmanned aircraft opens up enormous possibilities for monitoring our planet on missions too long or grueling for humans to fly and in areas where satellite information is absent or lacking detail,” said director Robbie Hood as she launched the program. “These aircraft could help us gain new understanding of hurricanes and other severe weather, global climate change, risks to endangered species, and many other areas of concern.”

Growing up in Neosho, Mo., and Picayune, Miss., Hood developed an early interest in weather by witnessing the devastating effects of Hurricane Camille in Mississippi in 1969 and the 1974 Neosho tornado. Her childhood fascination turned into a successful research career studying precipitation, thunderstorms, and hurricanes using remote sensing technology aboard satellites and aircraft.

Hood led the Storm Intensity Monitoring Group at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and participated in field programs in Australia, Brazil, the Marshall Islands, Alaska, Costa Rica, and the coastal United States. She served as mission scientist on four NASA field experiments studying hurricane development and intensity change. She has also served on a number of multi-agency committees and co-chaired the Joint Action Group for Tropical Cyclone Research, sponsored by the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology.

Hood is a direct descendant of John Ross, the first elected chief of the Cherokee Nation who held the office for nearly 40 years. Ross is famous for leading the Cherokees on the “Trail of Tears”—their forced relocation from the southeastern United States to present-day Oklahoma in 1838–1839. Coincidentally, one route of the Trail of Tears passes near Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where Hood worked for over two decades until moving to Boulder for the NOAA position.
Hood received a Bachelor of Science in atmospheric science from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a Master of Science in physical meteorology from Florida State University, Tallahassee.

Robbie is being relieved by Dr. Justyna Nicinska, Ph.D. who is currently the NOAA UAS Program Deputy Director and will be acting in her new capacity.

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