Nearly 100 researchers and students from four universities recently converged in Stillwater, Okla., to conduct the first flight campaign for CLOUD MAP, a $6 million project focused on using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for improved precision agriculture and weather forecasting.
With the weather’s cooperation all week, the groups from the University of Kentucky (UK), Oklahoma State University (OSU), the University of Oklahoma and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln conducted 70 fixed-wing and multi-rotor drone flights under Federal Aviation Administration authorization.
The four-year project – the Collaboration Leading Operational UAS Development for Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics – is funded by the National Science Foundation. As OSU explained last year, the project’s goal is the development of small, affordable UAS, along with a knowledge base, to be used by government and university scientists and private companies to expand the understanding of atmospheric conditions and improve weather forecasting.
“This flight campaign – the world’s largest gathering of atmospheric science and UAS researchers to date – exceeded everyone’s expectations,” says the UK College of Engineering’s Suzanne Smith, director of the UK Unmanned Systems Research Consortium and principal investigator of UK’s efforts in the project.
Other exercises allowed teams to compare sensor measurements and analyze which sensors could complement each other. Researchers also flew their UAS around an Oklahoma Mesonet site where high-quality reference weather and ground moisture data are available. A tour of the National Weather Center and the OU Advanced Radar Research Center completed the week.
“Now there is much data to evaluate and analyze over the next several months,” Smith adds.
The UK says the next CLOUD MAP flight campaign is tentatively scheduled for July 10-14, 2017, again in Stillwater. The 2018 flight campaign is planned for Kentucky.