Improving Environmental Situational Awareness for UAVs

PEMDAS supported a joint NOAA and Navy UAV operation in the Arctic in 2015 to track whales by providing real-time weather forecasting and icing alerts to the government team.  Mary Lockhart and PEMDAS Chief Technology Officer John Shepley later presented “Improving Environmental Situational Awareness for UAV Operations” at the Alaska Unmanned Air System Interest Group Annual meeting based upon the results of this Arctic exercise. This presentation examined environmental impacts to UAV operations, described the PEMDAS®Atmospheric Sensing and Prediction System (ASAPS®) and how our team provided critical real-time weather information to the joint NOAA-Navy team.

PEMDAS Technologies & Innovations has successfully integrated ASAPS into Raven and ScanEagle UAVs as well as the Northrup Grumman UAV SmartNode Pods. Our sensor package is the first step in resource protection of the UAV itself as it not only senses and transmits environmental parameters such as temperature, pressure, and humidity but also provides onboard algorithms for alerting and warning of icing conditions. This environmental data is first provided to the UAV operator, but then provided into the PEMDAS NOWcasting system for enhanced environmental awareness. This combination of real-time sensing and rapid NOWcasting weather forecasting helps overcome the current lack of high resolution and timely environmental information available to current operators of unmanned platforms.

The NOWcasting system provides decision quality information at the necessary scale for UAV operations – 1km in the horizontal and 200 meters in the vertical. NOWcasting also processes the environmental data at the surface with a 90-meter high-resolution terrain database. NOWcasting, as the name implies, significantly improves on traditional numerical weather prediction models in the short term by collecting and processing both traditional and non-traditional weather sources of data in an area of operations. Weather data is ingested, processed, and fused to create a seamless environmental picture enabling rapid decision-making.

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