Near-Storm Data and Video Gathering by RC Hobby Helicopter (The Flying Monkeys Project) - by the Carlson's
Abstract: Current technology provides for sampling by Mobile Doppler Radar Vehicles in the near-storm environment above 30m. Below 30m there is a void of sampled data down to 2m where mobile mesonet and data probe deployments pick up the sampling. These MM deployments typically sample the atmosphere from 0 - 2m AGL.
The purpose of this project is to deploy a Radio Controlled Hobby Helicopter carrying atmospheric data gathering equipment to sample the near-storm environment between 0m ground level to 30m AGL.
By making transits from the deployment location 'out into the field' at a height of 30m, a sample of the near-storm environment can be recorded in a location where access to MM vehicles is limited to existing roads.
At the same time a 1080p High Definition - gyro stabilized video camera, controlled by a cameraman (separate from the pilot) will focus on capturing the view of the tornado as it approaches and passes the location. The goal is to stay aloft over the deployment site in the inflow region of the thunderstorm as a tornado passes by.
Video, position GPS, and thermodynamic data (temperature, pressure and humidity) will be captured throughout the inflow region and RFD passage for the single site. The ideal deployment would be to capture the inflow region and also RFD passage in the same flight while holding position.
Through an agreement with TornadoVideos.Net http://www.tornadovideos.net/ - video will be streamed to thier servers in real time allowing for live viewing on the TVN website through Weather Decision Technologies http://www.wdtinc.com/
This is the first test flight and proof of concept streaming through the WDT site on March 7, 2009. Shortly after this flight I encountered three to four weak tornadoes.
Data Integrity: By using all electric powered equipment, contamination of the near atmosphere by the power system will be reduced. Temperature, humidity and pressure sensors will be mounted as far from the lipo batteries as possible (only slight warming source).
Data acquisition option 1 GPS, Temp, Baro, Humid?
Data acquisition option 2 OSD, GPS, Temp, Baro, Windspeed
Data acquisition option 3 OSD, GPS, Temp
A solution for windspeed and direction is also currently being sourced.
Aerial Storm Damage Survey by RC Hobby Aircraft
Abstract: As a low cost alternative to full scale aircraft, the idea is to loft a high resolution >5Mpixel point and shoot camera to capture storm/tornado damage. Having the system readily available and in the storm chaser's vehicle, 'first light of day' undisturbed photographs can be obtained of the damage path. Close in oblique photographs from 0 - 120m can be obtained according to current FAA rules.
Wicked Witch Project Abstract:For a never-before-seen intercept of a tornado from the air we have the Wicked Witch Jets. These are disposible low cost foam aircraft that carry wireless video cameras and can be launched into the inflow of a tornado to broadcast live streaming video of the intercept!
For heavy lifting of instrument packs and HD camcorders we have the Wicked Witch 1. This aircraft was part of the 2008 TWIST-EX project and may be repurposed for future aerial flights.
For long duration flights (up to an hour) we will use an electric powered glider. This glider can be sent up over tornado damaged areas or at the beginning of storm initiation and can stream live video to the ground as well.
For situations where the ground target is stationary for a long period of time and winds are steady we have a KAP rig (Kite Aerial Photography) that can take digital still images and stream live video of tornado damage, hail swaths and pre-storm initiation.
FAA considerations: For 2009, Aircraft will not be instrumented so as to avoid sUAS classification. Aircraft will fly as a hobbyist activity under Advisory Circular 91-57
Small UAS operating within visual line of sight may be given fast track access ahead of the full opening up of US airspace.
The draft legislation calls for the agency to "determine if certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate in the national airspace system before completion of the plan" within six months of the authorisation act being passed."