The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Air Resources Laboratory's Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD) has received Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification to fly unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
NOAA is authorized to fly the DJI S-1000 at the Knox County Radio Control Society's model flying field near Knoxville, Tenn. NOAA says this is the first time it has received FAA certification to fly a UAS with a weather observing payload inside the continental U.S.
Flights at the field, to be conducted in mid-June, will be used to test the airborne instrument package and conduct data comparisons with instruments on the ground in preparation for ATDD's field campaign in mid-July near Belle Mina, Ala.
The July field campaign will collect boundary layer measurements to better understand thunderstorm genesis mechanisms (convective initiation) in the southeastern U.S. The campaign is part of the NOAA Convective Initiation Study, funded by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. NOAA expects FAA approval to fly for the July field campaign near the end of June.
The UAS will also be used in the NOAA VORTEX-Southeast field campaign in Alabama next year to help understand the formation, intensity, structure and path characteristics of tornadoes.
ATDD acquired the DJI S-1000 in October 2014. The octocopter is capable of lifting approximately 10 lbs. of payload to an altitude of up to 1,000 feet above ground level. The payload includes a small downward looking infrared camera, a visible camera, and a radiosonde package to measure air temperature and relative humidity.
NOAA says this emerging technology will provide a new observing platform for obtaining critical missing data between land-based measurements and satellite remote sensing measurements.