NASA global hawk

Drone collects El Niño data

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are using a drone to collect detailed data related to El Niño weather patterns in the Pacific Ocean.

NASA’s Global Hawk UAS will carry a suite of NOAA meteorological sensors, and will parachute weather instruments into the weather system during the research flights. The data collected by the Global Hawks will help scientists to better understand El Niño's impacts on the United States and to improve NOAA's observational systems, models and predictions. 

Targeted observations from the drones could significantly improve how well weather models forecast tropical storms, winter storms and major floods, NOAA officials said. The Global Hawk’s high-altitude and long-duration flights make it a potentially important observing platform for environmental assessment and forecasting, they added.

“With the ability to fly at 65,000 feet for 30 hours, the NASA Global Hawk allows us to study intense and remote weather conditions that were previously unreachable,” said Dave Aguinaldo, NASA Global Hawk program manager at Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the UAS.

The missions will take place from February to March under NOAA’s Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology, or SHOUT, program, which partners with NASA to observe and predict high impact oceanic weather.

Global Hawks have previously been used by NASA to perform hurricane research, examine greenhouse gas effects and conduct autonomous aerial refueling trials.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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