Often times, cities and towns in the wake of tornadoes only have around fifteen minutes to prepare for a tornado touch-down in their region. But a group of Oklahoma State University engineering students is using data from unmanned aerial vehicles to make better tornado forecasts and give citizens more time to take cover, according to USA Today. The drones’ wing sensors can collect data on a storm’s pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind speeds to determine whether or not a thunderstorm will develop into a tornado.
According to the article, aerospace and engineering professor Jamey Jacob says there’s currently no effective way to measure such a prediction. The drones will weight a mere 35 pounds each and will be able to fly for up to 12 hours at a time. Despite the occurence of “tornado seasons” in the Midwest each year that devastates many towns and cities, there is still a big lack of data about how and when a tornado forms, according to the article.
U.S. unmanned aircraft, or drones, have been taking to the skies since the Air Force first developed them in the 1950s and 60s. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has chosen six U.S. sites for testing and researching unmanned aircraft, and Congress hopes that by 2015, they will be integrated into the U.S. airspace. According to the New York Times, privately-owned drones the size of tiny helicopters could be used to inspect broken power lines, and styrofoam planes could fly over fields to look for agriculture pests and help determine better farming practices.
But the unmanned aircraft industry is relatively young compared to that of manned airplanes and helicopters, says L. D. Chen, director of engineering and computing sciences at Texas A & M University, Corpus Christi. TAMU-CC is one of the FAA’s six chosen sites, and will work with the administration to research the best ways to control a drone’s guidance, control, and recovery systems.
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A growing number of universities are offering courses in unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, operation, according to Popular Mechanics, although the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to let such vehicles, commonly known as drones, occupy U.S. airspace. While the war in Afghanistan is winding down, it’s still possible that jobs in UAV operation could open up after 2015, the deadline Congress has set for the FAA to integrate commercial drones.
Colleges that are adding such courses include several state universities as well as universities specializing in aeronautics, like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. If integrated into national airspace, drones could greatly benefit farmers and agriculture by more accurately and cheaply dispersing seed, fertilizer and pesticide, according to the article.
Continue reading Universities Adding Courses in Drone Operation