STILLWATER, Okla. - Oklahoma State University students have designed unmanned aircraft designed to penetrate thunderstorms, including the supercells that spawn tornadoes, and obtain meteorological data vital for weather forecasting.
“Oklahoma, along with many regions in the U.S., has to deal with severe weather year round but violent thunderstorms and tornadoes are most worrisome,” said Jamey Jacob, a professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department who oversaw the project. “Better prediction methods can save lives, but this also requires more data about how storms form.”
Jacob says the vehicles collect important information about weather systems that can be used for both immediate forecasts of the storm’s path and strength and for predictive models.
The data can also be used in numerical simulations to aid meteorologists in their understanding of tornado genesis.
Three teams of OSU aerospace engineering juniors designed a vehicle with corresponding onboard sensors, ground control, launch and recovery systems that could be deployed from a catapult or unimproved surface, such as a dirt road.
The aircraft are controlled by a pilot on the ground and would penetrate the storm and relay data back to the ground crew.