UxS

a technician works with sensors on boat dock

NOAA technology used to research deep-sea volcanic and hydrothermal activity

As part of the ongoing Tonga Eruption Seabed Mapping Project, a team of scientists conducted a deep-water survey to better understand the impacts of the January 2022 Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption on the ocean environment. The research team used a technology developed by NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab (PMEL) to determine the level of ongoing volcanic and hydrothermal activity within the post-eruption caldera. The Miniature Autonomous Plume Recorder (MAPR) instruments made it possible for scientists to capture direct measurements of the water column up to 300 meters deep. This is the first time that such a survey has been conducted entirely remotely, using an uncrewed surface vessel that was operated and monitored by engineers and scientists located across the globe. Learn more about this PMEL mission and NOAA’s technological innovation effort.  A SeaKit engineer on the dock in Tonga mounting the PMEL MAPRs onto a specifically designed cage to fit on the USV Maxlimer. Photo Credit: Sea-Kit International/NIWA/Nippon Foundation

Depiction of several drone technologies floating together above and below the ocean surface.

NOAA uses array of marine and air uncrewed tools to improve hurricane forecast models

Throughout the 2022 hurricane season, NOAA will work with numerous partners to gather coordinated air-sea and atmospheric measurements in a hurricane from uncrewed ocean and aerial drones. NOAA will use a suite of innovative technologies to sample the ocean and atmosphere near each other in real-time and collect high-resolution data from all parts of the hurricane environment. This data could help forecasters better understand the forces that drive hurricanes so they can warn communities earlier. Technologies involved in these unprecedented sampling efforts include Saildrones and Altius-600 drones. The Saildrones involved in this research mission were specially modified to support hurricane research and developed through a CRADA partnership between NOAA and Saildrone, Inc. The Altius-600 drone was created by a small business called Area I, supported by SBIR research and development funding from the Department of Defense. The drone technology was later procured and further developed through a NOAA SBIR Phase III award. Read the full story NOAA will use several autonomous instruments this hurricane season to collect ocean and atmospheric data during during hurricanes. Credit: NOAA PMEL

Diagram showing ship-based operations for UAS Swarms

Charles River Analytics Expands Drone Research to Support NOAA Environmental Missions

NOAA SBIR Awardee to explore how unmanned aerial systems can further the agency’s unique environmental stewardship goals. Charles River Analytics was recently awarded its first two Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to explore how unmanned aerial systems can further the agency’s unique environmental stewardship goals.

Exploring the Pacific Arctic Seasonal Ice Zone With Saildrone USVs

Exploring the Pacific Arctic Seasonal Ice Zone With Saildrone USVs More high-quality, in situ observations of essential marine variables are needed over the seasonal ice zone to better understand Arctic (or Antarctic) weather, climate, and ecosystems. To better assess the potential for arrays of uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) to provide such observations, five wind-driven and solar-powered saildrones were sailed into the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas following the 2019 seasonal retreat of sea ice. They were equipped to observe the surface oceanic and atmospheric variables required to estimate air-sea fluxes of heat, momentum and carbon dioxide. Some of these variables were made available to weather forecast centers in real time. Our objective here is to analyze the effectiveness of existing remote ice navigation products and highlight the challenges and opportunities for improving remote ice navigation strategies with USVs. We examine the sources of navigational sea-ice distribution information based on post-mission tabulation of the sea-ice conditions encountered by the vehicles. The satellite-based ice-concentration analyses consulted during the mission exhibited large disagreements when the sea ice was retreating fastest (e.g., the 10% concentration contours differed between analyses by up to ∼175 km). Attempts to use saildrone observations to detect the ice edge revealed that in situ temperature and salinity measurements varied sufficiently in ice bands and open water that it is difficult to use these variables alone as a reliable ice-edge indicator. Devising robust strategies for remote ice zone navigation may depend on developing the capability to recognize sea ice and initiate navigational maneuvers with cameras and processing capability onboard the vehicles. View/Download Paper Andrew M. Chiodi, Chidong Zhang, Edward D. Cokelet, Qiong Yang, Calvin W. Mordy, Chelle L. Gentemann, Jessica N. Cross, Noah Lawrence-Slavas, Christian Meinig, Michael Steele, Don E. Harrison, Phyllis J. Stabeno, Heather M. Tabisola, Dongxiao Zhang, Eugene F. Burger, Kevin M. O’Brien and Muyin Wang