Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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65 unmanned systems inside October/November 2016 ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. this approach to see if it makes economic sense "Is it something that NOAA can potentially afford," Wick said, "and is it worth deploying as part of their observation suite. So it's not just pure science, it's really the nuts and bolts of it as well." One of the issues they need to understand, Wick said, is whether it matters if the forecasts are degraded. "It may be only when we have these real high- impact storms and hurricanes," Wick said, "… where now, all of a sudden, every little bit of guid- ance that you can get from the models is criti- cal. That's then a time when we would say 'Now it's worth pulling out this other platform to fill in what the satellite would have been giving us." SHOUT researchers are also comparing the Global Hawk data to information from other types of sources like manned aircraft. For ex- ample, Wick said, a Global Hawk has some ad- vantages because it can f ly higher and longer. "We can be out there for 24 hours so we get more time over the storm, and we f ly at a higher altitude—we're up around 60,000 feet where the (Gulfstream) G4s are down to may- be 42,000 to 45,000 feet. So we've got a little bit more of the atmosphere that we're looking down through. So we're evaluating if observa- tions from that upper-level really make a dif- ference or not." Operating at a higher altitude enables NOAA to trace out a pretty broad cross-section of the storm, he noted. "So it's giving kind of a satel- lite-type sampling. We're sampling a broader scale of the storm like a satellite would but being able get to a higher resolution—some- thing like aircraft does. So it's really a bridge between those capabilities." Wish List The SHOUT program, like NOAA's other for- ays into unmanned technology, generates a great deal of data. Hood said she would like to see new, easier ways to handle that data, including more geo-referencing where appro- priate, so that new information can be easily fused with existing data sets. It's really about viewing a UAS as being more than an aircraft, Hood said. "Thinking of it more as an integrated data system so that the data and data production are requirements right along with the performance of the aircraft." Beyond that, she said, requirements are driven by the needs of the scientists. Some want to get the most out of high resolution, vis- ible imagery—visible in infrared bands. Those users definitely want geo-tagging. "We have another set of scientists, Hood said, "who are more interested in putting dif- ferent kinds of remote sensors on. The same people who want to use weather radar. The people who want to f ly over, say, a snow region and be able to discern how deep the snow is and where the snow stops and where you don't have snow. They are more interested in putting remote sensors on UAS." For this group there is a greater need for plat- form flexibility. She would like to see platforms that can handle different kinds of payloads and make it easier to swap payloads in and out. Though her office is an entry point for new technology, Hood said she is generally not the decision maker when it comes to buying plat- forms, sensors or other capability. "What we're trying to do is help scientists do the evaluations," she said, "help them demon- strate the technology—and then it's up to their operational line office to make the decision if they want to incorporate that." She believes more programs will adopt un- manned technology, though it will happen somewhat slowly as platforms improve and data management capabilities evolve. "It's going to become like laptops or smart- phones," she said. "The first users who are ex- cited about the new technology; they are ready to make that leap. And then as the technology continues to mature you are going to have more and more people interested. So it's going to be more of a gradual process." "ONCE PEOPLE GET USED TO USING the new satellite—or they're looking forward to using the new satellite, and then it's not available—then how are you going to fill that gap?" Robbie Hood, program director, NOAA's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program