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Robotics Science

Robot Planes to Track Weather and Climate 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-watch-you-too dept.
coondoggie writes "The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week announced a $3 million, three-year program that to test the use of unmanned aircraft to measure hurricanes, arctic and Antarctic ice changes and other environmental tasks. The agency said the drone aircraft would be outfitted with special sensors and technology to help NOAA scientists better predict a hurricane's intensity and track, how fast Arctic summer ice will melt, and whether soggy Pacific storms will flood West Coast cities. Starting this summer, unmanned aircraft will take instruments on research flights that are too dangerous or too long for pilots and scientists."
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Robot Planes to Track Weather and Climate

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  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by floydman (179924) <floydman@gmail.com> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:20AM (#22164452)
  • isnt this what the satellites do?


    no i didnt rtfa or rtfs
    • by Nullav (1053766)
      From TFA:

      NOAA said unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV) could operate for sustained periods at lower altitudes and give meteorologists a continuous sampling of data, including wind speed, temperature, pressure and moisture, unlike most manned operations that occur today.

      I know next to nothing about the subject, so I'm just making assumptions, but I'm sure it would be difficult to measure much more than the amount of ice and wind speed (with clouds present to move in said wind, something that seems unlikely in a

      • by icebrain (944107)

        with a satellite, you're going to have to wait for someone to get up there and fumble around miles above the planet,

        Not really... human maintenance of "ordinary" satellites went out with Challenger (Hubble being the one notable exception). If they can't fix the problem from the ground, the insurance takes the hit and they build another one. It's also cheaper that way, really; and it'll probably stay like that until space access really gets to be affordable--ie, extremely cheap launch costs, and close to airline-like operations and reliability.

  • by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:28AM (#22164496) Homepage
    So these will be fully equipped with robotic snakes as well?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      And a robotic Samuel L Jackson 'anti-malware' incase the snakes go out of control.
      • by pipatron (966506)

        incase the snakes go out of control

        I don't fully understand this context. You say it as there was any other possibilities?

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:37AM (#22164546) Journal
    So, there I am... flying along in my rented Cessna 172, with a couple kids in the back, touring a local mountain range and making the kids squeal by stalling the plane every so often so that it suddenly drops a few hundred feet...

    How am I supposed to know that there's a UAV nearby? It's not like a UAV will announce, in a friendly tone: "Orland Traffic, UAV N301A 4 thousand feet, 3 miles southeast, heading 140, Cessna in sight, no factor.". (Note: UAV == "Unmanned Air Vehicle") For those who don't know, this call means:

    Orland Traffic = the airport in question. Click here if you are curious [skyvector.com].

    UAV N301A = the type of aircraft, and the registration number.

    4 thousand feet = the altitude of the aircraft at the time of call.

    3 miles southwest = where the airplane is relative to the airport in question (Orland)

    Heading 140 = what direction the plane is travelling. In this case, East of due south. (it's heading away from Orland airport, but crossing due south)

    Cessna in sight = I see the plane that was just mentioned on the airwaves.

    No factor = I couldn't hit it if I wanted to.

    A UAV is controlled by a COMPUTER which has no concept of instruction like what I just gave. It could announce itself in some fashion digitally, which would mean that planes that have digital "situational awareness" systems with RADAR and XM Satellite weather might display them just fine - but many planes don't even have a RADIO! (planes with no radio do not fly over major cities - you'd be shocked at how much airspace this still allows)

    How could this possibly work? Until there's a consistent, legally defined way for civil aircraft to know that there's a UAV nearby, this is a non-starter. But no way has been declared, and (as of last summer) it has not even been announced to pilots as a possibility. I don't even have the OPTION of knowing where these UAVs might be.

    So when I hit a UAV, am I supposed to sue the Federal Govt? (assuming I live to tell about it)

    I sense severe stupidity at work, here, and this is not my sig line. UAVs are not a problem, but they have NOT been incorporated into the existing (human/pilot based) aviation system. This is a slow disaster in the making. When an unannounced UAV hits a private plane filled with a happy, loving family, who is to blame for their deaths?
    • by nguy (1207026) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:48AM (#22164594)
      Most UAVs fly high enough so that there's no chance of a collision. When they fly in regular air space, UAVs avoid you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 4D6963 (933028)

      Ain't there traffic controllers in charge of making sure that doesn't happen? And you're not concerned with the odds of hitting a weather balloon?

      • by sumdumass (711423)
        Well, I'm wondering what would stop him from hitting another plane that doesn't have a radio to announce their location either.

        Maybe hitting the UAV or another plane wasn't his point, maybe it is having a clear authority to sue. Surely painting the UAVs with some reflective or highly visible marking wouldn't be out of the question seeing how it isn't being used to war efforts or anything.
    • by docbombay (722076) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @07:15AM (#22165102)
      Although the article talks about "automated" unmanned vehicles, the only way that any of the vehicles mentioned in this article are fully automated is in systems responsible for gathering data, *not* navigation or maneuvering. In fact, an FAR clarification notice posted a few years ago http://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/design_approvals/uas/reg/media/frnotice_uas.pdf [faa.gov] states that the only way that an unmanned vehicle is allowed to fly in the United States is if it is in control (albeit remotely) by a human pilot-in-command, and under constant watch by a human observer, "either through line-of-sight on the ground or in the air by means of a chase aircraft". In controlled airspace, there must also be "communication between the PIC and Air Traffic Control (ATC)".
      • I'm not trying to argue with what is written in the document but wouldn't following a UAV with a "chase aircraft" defeat the purpose slightly?
        • by docbombay (722076)
          Not necessarily. There is nothing to say that there has to be one observer per UAV in the air. For example, an airport could have a chase plane on observation duty to keep an eye on all UAV's within its airspace.
    • Here's some advice for all pilots. When you're about to fly into a UAV, try not to fly into a UAV.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Rather than looking for the opportunity to show off your pilot's license (I.E. Cptn. bigcock), you should have spent 30 seconds to read the article.

      You would have found that unless you fly these happy families into the eye of hurricanes, over the arctic, or from New York to England via ocean route (is there any other way?), you have absolutely nothing to fear of collision with an UAV.

      In the incredibly unlikely event that you actually do in fact fly a Cessna over the arctic or across oceans just for the joyg
      • from New York to England via ocean route (is there any other way?),

        Yes, You can fly over Canada, greenland, on to england. That is called the land route. Likewise, you could go further north, which is a polar route. The Ocean (or water) route is where you pretty much fly only over the ocean, AND can not make land through the bulk of the flight.

        And yes, pilots will do all 3. All would prefer to fly south of greenland (better landing in emergency), but it and the oceans are pretty full. I no longer remember

    • by Pwnzer78 (1226140)
      Thats why companies like MicroAir are making UAV transponders www.microair.com/au and companies like Prioria www.prioria.com, are doing cool UAV collision avoidance stuff.
    • by kabocox (199019)
      A UAV is controlled by a COMPUTER which has no concept of instruction like what I just gave. It could announce itself in some fashion digitally, which would mean that planes that have digital "situational awareness" systems with RADAR and XM Satellite weather might display them just fine - but many planes don't even have a RADIO! (planes with no radio do not fly over major cities - you'd be shocked at how much airspace this still allows)

      I don't fly unless I really have to. There is a part of me that has nev
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This sounds like a pretty uninformed opinion that has not been well thought out.... You say that UAVs will not be able to announce themselves like a manned aircraft, and a moment later go on to say that some aircraft don't even have radios... Well dummy - how do those non-radio equipped aircraft announce themselves? UAVs operating in the national airspace have transponders on board, their operators are in constant communication with ATC, and sometimes even have TCAS systems or ground based radars helping
    • by CompMD (522020) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:48PM (#22168850)
      There's nothing that says these NOAA UAVs will be flying in US airspace, because right now it is still illegal. The only places in the US that UAV can fly are restricted airspaces. There's no "severe stupidity" at work here. There's only your knee-jerk, think-of-the-"happy, loving family" reaction to technologies you are clearly unfamiliar with.

      If I were you, I wouldn't try to thrill the kids by inducing a stall in your 172 in a mountain range. Air currents in a mountain range are such that you could easily find yourself flipped over or finding new and exciting ways to attempt to control your aircraft.

      • by mcrbids (148650)
        If I were you, I wouldn't try to thrill the kids by inducing a stall in your 172 in a mountain range.

        You are right - I shoulda used an "or"...

        So, there I am... flying along in my rented Cessna 172, with a couple kids in the back, touring a local mountain range *or* making the kids squeal by stalling the plane every so often so that it suddenly drops a few hundred feet...
        There. Fixed that.
    • by ralewi1 (919193)
      If you are hit by one of these UAVs, you are probably in the vicinity of a hurricane, well outside of an established flight route or flying in an announced exclusion area. I strongly doubt the FAA would let the UAVs fly into an air corridor. Here's a clip from NOAA lessons learned [noaa.gov] that should assuage your fears:

      1. FAA clearances are a major UAS hurdle that needs to be streamlined. We were able to circumnavigate this issue for our lone Ophelia flight but this was in large part due to the fact Ophelia was stalled for 1-2 days prior to mission initiation. This in turn allowed the complicated flight clearance process to play out. In a nutshell, we were very fortunate. One seeming advantage for future UAS Aerosonde missions is that we fly into regions no commercial aircraft will go near let alone fly directly into (i.e. Hurricane environments). That fact alone should play in our favor when asking for future clearances.

  • I read that as "Robot plans to track weather and climate". Was just tired enough to start wondering how I could have missed the robot overlords taking over. Thanks dyslexia!
  • by RuBLed (995686) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:56AM (#22164628)
    ...the robots would utilize an efficient means of communication, this network would be vastly aware of not only local but also the global climate and weather. It was now codenamed SkyNet. ...

    but this is great, for example, in a hurricane, the sattelites base its data on what it sees (visual, thermal, radar, etc) but these vehicles could go more "local" and experience events or phenomenon occuring that sattelites cannot detect. It's like placing a man in there that lived to tell the tale. (and not lie)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Badgam (1219056)
      I'm just waiting for the Weather Channel to start learning at a geometric rate.
  • Are the any two points in the robot plane that contain a single unique straight line, robotic too?
  • Robot Plans to Track Weather and Climate

    Talk about intentionality
  • heh. I misread that as "Robot plans to track weather and climate", and I thought - blimey! AI has really come along in recent years.
  • Weather. Right, that's what they'll be watching with their cameras that can resolve 6pt text from 50k feet. I'm gonna add a wide brim to my foil hat so they can't see any part of me. I'll just be a shiny spot on the landscape.
  • With their handy robots the Bush administration and its hand-picked shills at the EPA can ignore and/or redact even more evidence regarding global warming!
  • > science, robot, skynet (tagging beta)

    Thank you!

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