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NOAA and Raytheon improve unmanned aircraft to collect hurricane weather data
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NOAA and Raytheon improve unmanned aircraft to collect hurricane weather data

NOAA and Raytheon successfully demonstrated several improvements to the Coyote Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) while completing a mid-flight launch from the NOAA P-3 Hurricane Hunter aircraft on January 7, 2016. The flight verified new technology designed to improve Coyote’s ability to collect vital weather data to improve hurricane forecasts.

NOAA released the Coyote from its Hurricane Hunter aircraft over the Avon Park Air Force Range in Avon Park, Florida, in order to measure the transmission range of upgraded technologies. The unmanned aircraft set a new distance record for flight control and data transmission to the P-3, and provided NOAA hurricane forecasters with real-time data on atmospheric air pressure, temperature, moisture, wind speed and direction as well as surface temperature. The Coyote collects this essential data at altitudes too low for manned aircraft to safely navigate in the hurricane environment. 

“NOAA is investing in unmanned aircraft and other technologies to increase weather observations designed to improve the accuracy of our hurricane forecasts,” said Joe Cione, Ph.D., hurricane researcher at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and chief scientist of the Coyote program.  “This successful flight gives us additional confidence that we will be able to use this unique platform to collect critical continuous observations at altitudes in the lower part of a hurricane, an area that would otherwise be impossible to reach with manned aircraft.”

The Coyote is capable of maneuvering in the most violent regions of a hurricane, collecting data to help improve accuracy of storm conditions and forecasts. Because hurricanes are fueled by warm ocean water, information collected at the interface of atmosphere and ocean is vital to understanding and predicting storm strength.

"Here at the National Hurricane Center, we are keenly interested in obtaining measurements from the Coyote of the strongest winds near the center of the storm," said Chris Landsea, science operations officer at NOAA's National Hurricane Center. "Coyote could help us paint a better picture of current storm intensity for our storm updates."

NOAA tested the Coyote in a major hurricane for the first time in Hurricane Edouard in 2014. After the successful flights, scientists and engineers worked to upgrade the Coyote technology to allow it to fly farther from the P-3 aircraft, while providing continuous data from its sensors. Engineers at NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center and Raytheon developed and installed a new antenna and radio, allowing operators to stay in communication with the Coyote as it flew away from the hurricane hunter aircraft during the flight.

“We’ve made some significant improvements to Coyote. It can now fly for 50 miles away from the launch aircraft,” said Thomas R. Bussing, Ph.D., vice president of the Advanced Missile Systems product line at Raytheon. “Raytheon technology is playing a key role in enhancing safety for hurricane researchers, and helping to deliver vital information about potentially deadly storms to the American people.”

For more information on Coyote please see a more detailed story on the website of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab.

For more information, please contact Monica Allen, director of public affairs for NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research at 301-734-1123 or by email at monica.allen@noaa.gov

 

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