20 September, 2016 09:06

NOAA UAS Program Examines High-to-Low (Big-to-Small) Hurricane Hermine UAS Operations

NOAA UAS Program Examines High-to-Low (Big-to-Small) Hurricane Hermine UAS Operations

Global Hawk is used to assist on Hurricane Hermine forecasting while small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) execute damage assessment in Georgia.

Over a nine day period starting August 24th, the NOAA UAS Program’s SHOUT mission flew the 737-size Global Hawk over Hurricanes GASTON and HERMINE dropping 316 sondes and accumulating 94.5 flight hours with an incredible 80% of those hours on-station. As a result, these targeted autonomous insitu sensing operations provided real-time top-to-bottom meteorological observations which were used by the National Hurricane Center’s hurricane forecasters. Days later, small UAS were used to survey tornado damage that developed during the passage of Tropical Storm HERMINE through Georgia, and the UAS imagery was immediately shared with the National Weather Service (NWS).

This was the second time this year that upstream High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAS targeted insitu observations were used to better forecast hazardous weather events which led to the rapid response of Low Altitude Short Endurance (LASE) UAS to conduct Post Damage Assessment (PDA) of downstream tornadic events. These rapid response UAS were available hours after the initial damage was reported to assist the local Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and NWS’ PDA.

The NWS Eastern Region UAS Team (ERUT) was established during the spring of 2015 to investigate the possibility of using UAS to enhance post-storm damage assessments with localized aerial imagery. Teaming with the NOAA UAS Program and local EMA, they have repeatedly been able to exercise the Rapid Response (RR) component of Targeted Autonomous Insitu Sensing and Rapid Response (TAISRR) with UAS concept of operations.

According the ERUT Lead Ron Morales, "We were able to get some aerial imagery of a large tornado damage path from a tornado spawned during Tropical Storm HERMINE. This particular tornado occurred on private property just east of I-95 in Liberty county, GA. We did another damage survey just north of this area too, in Chatham county/Skidaway Island, GA, which had more structural damage due to trees falling on homes, and one house nearly lost all of it’s roof! Both of these tornadoes were particularly strong for a tropical system, at least from what I’ve witnessed in my 24+ year career." NWS rated this tornado a high-end EF1. The tree damage was extensive, with hundreds if not thousands of very large oaks and pines snapped.

John "JC" Coffey

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