Colloquium: 2019-04-09

The Role of UAS in Atmospheric Science

Phillip B. Chilson

April 9, 2018 at 2:00 P.M. in Reid 1
(video within Langley firewall only)


There is rich and promising potential in using small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to collect much-needed measurements in the lower atmosphere. Data from fleets of UAS could revolutionize our capability for atmospheric observation, significantly improve weather forecasting skill and help to identify severe weather threats. Emerging technology surrounding UAS provides ample opportunities to collect dense profiles of the atmospheric state as part of advanced weather observing systems. However, there remains much to be learned before fully harnessing this potential. These are the “pioneering days” for developing UAS and sensor technology, and for integrating them into atmospheric science and forecast models. Small UAS can provide much-needed targeted lower-atmospheric data to answer some of the fundamental and high-impact science questions facing the atmospheric science community, and are needed for modern observing systems to fill a data gap close to the Earth’s surface. This lecture showcases preliminary data from a 3D Mesonet, including collection of vertical atmospheric measurements (profiles) using instrumented, autonomous, and unattended UAS across a spatial network of fixed surface observing sites. Measurements from an operational version of the 3D Mesonet could be utilized to better characterize the atmospheric boundary layer, improve weather forecasts, and to identify threats of severe weather.


Photo of speakerPhillip Chilson is a Professor in the School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma and Director of the University’s Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling. He received a BS and PhD in Physics from Clemson University and MS in Physics from the University of Florida. He has also performed research at the Max-Planck Institut für Aeronomie, the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, and the University of Colorado. Dr. Chilson’s current research interests include investigations of the atmospheric boundary layer, aeroecology, the advancement of remote sensing technologies, and the development of unmanned aerial systems for atmospheric studies.