Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Robotic Aircraft Designed For Weather Forecasting

Date:
December 15, 2008
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
At MIT, planning for bad weather involves far more than remembering an umbrella. Researchers in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics are trying to improve weather forecasting using robotic aircraft and advanced flight plans that consider millions of variables.

Improving weather forecasting could also save lives. The more time to prepare for a storm and evacuate the area, the better. Currently, forecasts made more than 48 hours in the future aren't considered highly reliable.
Credit: iStockphoto/Mike Bentley

At MIT, planning for bad weather involves far more than remembering an umbrella. Researchers in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics are trying to improve weather forecasting using robotic aircraft and advanced flight plans that consider millions of variables.

"Weather affects huge sectors of our economy, such as agriculture and transportation," said Nicholas Roy, an assistant professor and one of the researchers who worked on the project. With more time for advanced planning, farmers could bring in their crop before a big storm hits. Airlines could adjust their flight schedules further in advance, reducing the impact on customers.

Improving weather forecasting could also save lives. "People do get killed in these storms," said Aero-Astro Professor Jonathan How, the principal investigator. The more time to prepare for a storm and evacuate the area, the better. Currently, forecasts made more than 48 hours in the future aren't considered highly reliable.

The researchers hope to gain some lead-time by improving the way data about current weather conditions are collected. Existing forecasting systems depend on pressure, temperature, and other sensors aboard a single piloted airplane that flies scripted routes. But the data that are collected can't be processed fast enough to alter the flight plan if a storm starts brewing. "The response time is fairly slow," How said. "Today's flight path is based on yesterday's weather."

Ideally, teams of unmanned aircraft would be used to gather data. Current sensor readings from one plane would be used to guide the deployment of additional planes to areas with especially interesting or changing weather. By gathering information from several key areas at the same time, the researchers believe they could offer more accurate forecasts.

"We'd like to better predict the weather three to five days in advance," said Han-Lim Choi, a postdoctoral associate in How's lab.

But this is no easy task, largely because weather involves extremely complicated interactions between a lot of different factors. And while the researchers focused their work on the area over the Pacific Ocean, this was still a vast expanse to consider in terms of automated flight planning. Traditional robotic planning algorithms don't scale well to problems of that size, How explained. So the key challenge was creating an algorithm that could develop an effective flight plan quickly, based on millions of variables.

After three years of research using computerized weather simulations, the team believes their algorithm can quickly and efficiently determine where aircraft should be sent to take the most important measurements. Essentially, the algorithm works by determining the relative utility of taking different flight paths to gather measurements. How said their system can create a new flight plan within six hours of collecting data.

Choi, who recently earned an MIT PhD for his work on the project, will describe the research at this month's IEEE Conference on Decision and Control.

How said the results of the research could reach far beyond weather prediction. Intelligent path planning is essential for all kinds of mobile robots, be they autonomous cars or mail-carrying robots. The research also be used, How noted, to help environmental engineers determine where best to take samples to determine the source of a contaminant.

Although the system has not yet been used with real aircraft, How's team continues to test their algorithm against increasingly complex weather models with the help of former MIT meteorologist James Hansen, who is now with the Naval Research Laboratory.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Robotic Aircraft Designed For Weather Forecasting." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081211141938.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2008, December 15). Robotic Aircraft Designed For Weather Forecasting. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081211141938.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Robotic Aircraft Designed For Weather Forecasting." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081211141938.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

AFP (Aug. 30, 2014) Authorities in Liberia try to stem the spread of the Ebola epidemic by raising awareness and setting up sanitation units for people to wash their hands. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

California Passes 'yes-Means-Yes' Campus Sexual Assault Bill

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) California lawmakers pass a bill requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on campuses. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3 Things To Know About The Ebola Outbreak's Progression

3 Things To Know About The Ebola Outbreak's Progression

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) Here are three things you need to know about the deadly Ebola outbreak's progression this week. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins