The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Oklahoma State University (OSU) and three partner universities $6 million to collaboratively develop an integrated unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to improve weather forecasting through the study of atmospheric physics.
The project is called CLOUD MAP, the Collaboration Leading Operational UAS Development for Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics.
The collaboration is led by OSU, with the universities of Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kentucky as core partners. The project also involves other universities, including the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as government agencies, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Center for Atmospheric Science. Private companies are also providing expertise.
The project’s goal is the development of small, affordable unmanned systems, 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.
Currently, says OSU, meteorologists primarily rely on radar and ground-based instruments that are unable to collect necessary data in the atmosphere to build better forecasting models. Weather balloons provide information but are limited by how often they can be launched. Although scientists have used large UAS, such as the Predator, to study hurricanes, the cost is prohibitive for more widespread study of atmospheric conditions.
NSF awarded the four-year grant through its Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research – part of a national priority to increase funding and workforce development in 12 key states, including Oklahoma, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, says OSU.
Photo courtesy of OSU