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Video: NOAA testing unmanned aircraft to measure lower atmosphere
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Video: NOAA testing unmanned aircraft to measure lower atmosphere

Technology has potential to improve short-term weather forecasts

A few hours before storms formed in northern Oklahoma during the second week in May, three unmanned aircraft flew through the air hundreds of feet above the ground to observe important changes in the atmosphere that could spawn severe thunderstorms.

This groundbreaking research known as EPIC is the first step toward proving the value of pilotless aircraft to provide important atmospheric clues that can significantly enhance data gathered by  satellites, radars, manned aircraft and ground-observing stations.

During rapidly evolving severe weather, miniaturized, high-precision, and fast-response atmospheric sensors onboard the unmanned aircraft systems provided scientists detailed profiles of temperature, moisture and wind -- information that has the potential to improve the accuracy of short-term forecasts three to six hours before severe weather appears

About the research:

EPIC or the Environmental Profiling and Initiation of Convection is a research project funded by NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System Program being conducted by NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Colorado and the Swiss-based company Meteomatics.

For more information, please contact Keli Pirtle, NOAA Communications at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory, at 405-325-6933 or by email at



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Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.


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