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UAV Research of Tornadoes


Every meteorologist knows how tricky and difficult is usually research of large storms or tornadoes. If we are be able to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in order to examine weather, it would help us to better understand of the tornado dynamics. Actually, this is exactly what is the main goal of the Sirens Project team. The purpose of the project is to provide meteorologists and engineers with highly-valued surface data inside of tornadoes that will lead to more dependable warnings and structures. Moreover, another aspect of this research project is to show the immense potential of UAV applications. Performing tornado research in this way would be cheaper, safer and more effective. To make this aim possible, the team is going to provide their unusual drone with specially designed sensors and safety devices. These sensors would be also able of monitoring and recording barometric pressure, temperature, and relative humidity. Another important part of the UAS will be GPS device for linking the gathered data with specific coordination points. Using the GPS coordinates is essential part of further rendering of 3D representation of the sensor package inside the tornado. This is actually very exciting idea, because the UAV research could allow future meteorologists and engineers to essentially have access to the first MRI of a tornado.

The Sirens Project was founded by SPSU student Warren Causey in 2013 and it´s based on crowdfunding, aiming to achieve of $10,000 for the team´s intents. Actually, they need to build more then one drone, because not everyone of them will survive the research. Therefore, they would need several of them in order to get as many data sets as possible. Tornado chasing is also a gas-consuming activity, which also needs some fundation. The UAV research prototype is designed as a deltawing type drone. Such design should allow a user to reach high speeds while maintaining essential control in high wind environments. Another important part is also a long range FPV (First Person View) system. This great device will provide safe deployment of the sensor package from several miles away. The sensor package basically works as a black box in full-sized aircrafts. The whole device is surrounded by a thick case made of polycarbonate, which allows an excellent impact resistance and endurance. Because of that can the UAV “black box” survive the harsh environment inside the tornado even in case what the rest of the UAS doesn´t.

Besides the previously mentioned sensors is the drone equipped by 1080p HI-Definition camera which is placed inside the sensor package. Its purpose is to capture the tornado intercept and provide any visual data that might help understand tornado dynamics at the surface. Gathered data are stored on a SD card several times a second. Last but not least, the Sirens Project team is going to document the whole UAV development and also make a documentary movie. I suppose that this would be a great source of inspiration for future UAS enthusiasts, who can learn from their ideas, mistakes and pioneering design. Such project has never been done before and despite many obstacles in the researcher´s way the contribution for our knowledge about tornadoes could be immense. According to the researchers, are technology and forecasting issues sure to arise, but this project consists of very passionate individuals who posses skill sets that will make this ground breaking research project a success. Well then, I wish them luck and many supporters to make this to happen.