Mechanical and aerospace engineering students at Oklahoma State University have developed a drone that can fly into severe thunderstorms like the ones that spawn tornadoes. (Source: Oklahoma State University)
"Oklahoma State University students working to solve this problem have developed the ultimate storm chaser -- a drone that can fly into the storms and send data back to meteorologists. "
Very nice idea. Hurricanes always left us thousands of people facing expensive repairs for property damage. Concerned people want to help relieve some of that burden through relief charities. Unfortunately, these kinds of disasters also bring out scammers trying to make a fast back by taking advantage of tragedy and misery. The Better Business Bureau released some helpful tips in sorting the legitimate contractors and charities from the unscrupulous. tragedies. If you need help paying for emergency fixes, get financial advice.
Very interesting post Elizabeth. In the late ' 60s, I did a TDY at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. It was in late March; prime tornado weather for that part of the country. Around 2:00 in the morning the alert sirens sounded indicating a tornado had been spotted. We all hurried down into the shelters to wait until the all-clear sounded. We had maybe 5 minutes to get underground before the tornado hit. We were there for about 20 minutes and when we came "top-side", we discovered the tornado had hit two hangers and basically destroyed several aircraft stationed inside for maintenance and repairs. This was an F-2 and yet it bent and twisted aircraft as though they were toys. Any thing that can be done to provide greater warning and more time to react is greatly needed. I suspect Homeland Security intended the drones for keeping track of citizens but this is an excellent use of the technology.
Thanks, Elizabeth - I am curious as to what he has to say. I had a friend that used to design and build industrial weather stations out of his home and I designed a wind rose as a student project back in my school days so I am really interested in these types of designs that involve monitoring weather parameters...it will be interesting to see what he says.
Your comments and concerns are warranted, I think, Thinking_J. I didn't really think of the potential negative consequences of this, but you're right, there are probably a lot of reasons why this technology isn't such a good idea. I'm sure malfunctions in such dire conditions are definitely possible. We can only hope that if this technology is put to actual use that the inventors take as much precaution as they can to avoid any of these issues.
It's my pleasure, Nancy. I really enjoy writing about these types of innovations and am always impressed by what the really clever people in this world are dreaming up! I sent an email to Jamey yesterday so let's see what he says. I'll post a comment when I get his reply.
Thanks, Elizabeth - It would be interesting to understand the sensing and data logging mechanisms, especially under such extreme conditions. Hopefully you will hear back. Thanks as always for reporting on such interesting and potentially valuable technologies!
I applaude the effort ... but I have serious reservations in it being approved to be used.
As pointed out in other comments.. not quite sure what additional info would be gained.
Their use of a micro turbine implies they intend to work at higher alitudes (where turbines work better than props)..,.otherwise why use a $3-5K engine when a $200 one will work?
I really have questions concerning .... fast enough to get to event before it is over vs launching near event (still requiring storm chasers?)... dwell time vs speed in smaller craft (likely tornado .. 300 miles away.. can it get there in less than 1 hour and still fly around long enough to be useful and return to base?)
I have seen turbine RC aircraft .. good for 200-300 mph.. the FAA will not let them fly outside visual range of operator (~400 ft). At what point does a drone become a cruse missle?
Then there is that subject of .. adding debri to the funnel when a craft gets 'sucked in' ... or simply having problems and falling out of the sky - into a school yard - while on the way to an event a 100 miles away?
Search and rescue operations are one non-military humanitarian app for drones, but there are other related ones, like post-disaster real-time aerial photography in support of S&R, or scientific apps like topo mapping.
Unless the wings are solid carbon fiber the aspect ratio seems too high for an aircraft with a mission to fly into high wind speeds. The wings seem too flexible for this. As far as instrumentation, very little needs to hang out of the drone and be visible, It can all be built into the aircraft body contours. The tornado near El Reno proved it is too dangerous for people on the ground. I think a data logger could be built in for later recovery to fill in the gaps due to radio interference. I think it's a neat application though.
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