Meteorological Research Findings Could Fill Void in Battlefield Weather Observations, Predictions

June 08, 2010

Meteorological Research Findings Could Fill Void in Battlefield Weather Observations, Predictions

U.S. Army Research Laboratory meteorological expertise has led to modifications in commercial weather instruments that now promise to improve accuracy of weather forecast models of critical importance to military operations.

For the first time, an extensive, fine-resolution, high-quality meteorological (Met) dataset was collected from a remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA), using the Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Reporting for unmanned aircraft, or TAMDAR-U.

The instrument is a weather monitoring system that uses sensors mounted on ordinary commercial aircraft for gathering data. Up until now, RPAs generated readings that were only viewable by their pilots and could not be disseminated to other users or for ingest into weather forecast models. RPAs also have no mechanism in place to conduct quality control checks on the data they produce.

TAMDAR-U, on the other hand, transmits its data up to a satellite network from anywhere in the world, and the Met observations are transmitted down to a ground station where extensive quality checks are run, explained TAMDAR-U project test director Terry C. Jameson, a meteorologist from ARL's Atmospheric Modeling Application Branch at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Jameson explained that after transmission to a ground station, the data are reformatted properly such that they can be ingested into weather forecast models. "The TAMDAR-U collects a full suite of Met data, including temperature, humidity, pressure, winds and the presence of icing conditions, turbulence, as well as precise position and time information - which is crucial for utilizing the data in weather forecasting models," he said.

"The sensor-based technology will help quantify the effects of weather on battlefield personnel, equipment and operations," Jameson added.

ARL's role in the project is to organize and conduct the tests of the instrument. As such, ARL developed the flight test profiles to optimize the Met data collection opportunities, designed the Met data analyses methodology, and will conduct the evaluations of the datasets that are collected.

ARL is collaborating with New Mexico State University's Physical Science Laboratory, which operates the Aerostar RPA and provides all the associated ground support and flight control personnel and equipment. ARL provides the meteorological expertise.

Initial flights to test instrument calibration were conducted as required by AirDat, the company that developed TAMDAR-U, to ensure the instrument was producing accurate positioning and heading readings.

More recently, the team conducted an actual data collection flight (of just over three hours in duration), during which a full Met observation dataset was obtained. These data will be entered into one of ARL BE's weather prediction models to assess the potential gain in forecast accuracy that might be realized. Two additional data collection flights are planned during the summer of 2010.

After the three dedicated Met data collection flights are conducted, and the weather forecast model accuracy assessments are completed, the TAMDAR-U instrument is slated to remain on board the Aerostar RPA for at least an additional 18 months for continued evaluation of new datasets as they become available.

"It is hoped that ultimately this proof-of-concept research will pave the way for instruments like TAMDAR-U to be deployed on battlefield RPAs," said Jameson. "Battlefield Met observations are currently extremely sparse, and data being collected by RPAs promises to fill a significant void."

He said his next projects involve the development of weather-based decision support tools and evaluations of battlefield artillery meteorology systems.


Last Update / Reviewed: June 8, 2010