Guest Writer Matthew Kaufman – Tech Urchin: Acquiring data in dangerous weather circumstances has traditionally been done from the ground and often involves a person to man. We have seen armored vehicles, weighted down, and driving into the middle of vicious tornados. Far too many storm chasers have died in an effort to keep the locals safe. Drones may be the window into safer storm chasing, and more accurate tornado predictions.
Drones are becoming more accessible and more affordable, with new models like the recent DJI Mavic Air being released all the time which has broken barriers once again with its impressive capabilties. Many forecasters and storm chasers are utilizing new drone technology to record weather anomalies and observe weather conditions for a particular area. Drones are used to record pressure, temperature, humidity and wind velocity. They allow for more accurate and more precise measurements than what radar can provide. Drones are agile, relatively cheap, and do not require a human passenger.
Tornados have been a major concern and seem to be one of the most unpredictable weather anomalies. Forecasters can only speculate on tornado possibilities and it is not until around 20 minutes before touchdown can they feel more certain about its inevitability. One of the major hindering factors in predicting tornados is acquiring readings on location. Storm chasers have been the traditional go-to guys for gaining these readings, but it is an incredibly dangerous job and has proven fatal far too often. Drones have been able to give more accurate readings that allow forecasters to predict a tornado up to 60 minutes in advance. This is enough time to batten down the hatches and evacuate for much of the area in danger, saving hundreds and possibly thousands of lives.
Beyond the actual tornado prediction, drones have become the best way to gain a visual on post-destruction evaluation. Using high definition cameras on a low-flying vehicle has given vital information on what areas need assistance immediately. Besides drones, the only other options are high-cost and require a manned vehicle (helicopters, planes, and satellite imagery).
Many forecasters are turning to drones for more accurate predictions for specified areas and for cheaper solutions to determining tornado possibilities. Drones could save lives of both weather enthusiasts as well as local residents. While there is still much concern over government usage of drones, their potential in public and private weather services is something to be desired. There is a lot of potential to be tapped into with drone technology for the weather industry.