Field observation of tornadic supercells by multiple autonomous fixed‐wing unmanned aircraft
Frew, Eric W.
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This paper presents the results of the design and field deployment of multiple autonomous fixed‐wing unmanned aircraft into supercell thunderstorms. As part of a field campaign in Spring 2019, up to three fixed‐wing unmanned aircraft were deployed simultaneously into different regions of supercell thunderstorms, To learn more about the atmospheric conditions that lead to the formation of tornadoes. Successful field deployment is attributed to (a) a nomadic concept of operations that allows the unmanned aircraft system team and science team to work seamlessly together while satisfying all aviation regulations and (b) the ruggedized RAAVEN unmanned aircraft system with modular features that favor rapid, ease‐of‐use over the brute strength of previous designs. The concept of operations and the unmanned aircraft system are described along with results from a 4 day window where four storms were sampled: two of these storms were tornadic (formed tornadoes before, during, or after being sampled) and two were not. These results validate the feasibility of nomadic operation of multiple unmanned aircraft simultaneously in severe weather conditions. Further, the successful field deployments demonstrate the importance of the modular unmanned aircraft design.