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Robots on Weather Patrol

Posted by jaking Mar 16, 2010

For those of us living in Austin, Texas, (which would be all of your Sweet Apps bloggers), we are well aware of climate change. One day it is 70 degrees and sunny, then the next thing you know it is snowing, Unfortunately, this is a true story.

 

At the same time, there are good people who study real climate change, like at The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. The team evaluates data from an instrument called the Unmanned Aerial System Ozone (UAS O3) that is onboard one of NASA's Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

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A snowman basks in 70 degree temperatures in front of National Instruments after a bizarre bout of snow.

 

Given Austin's unpredictable weather, each and every day I am faced with the daunting task of deciding what to wear. While it may look nice outside, there is a strong possibility the temperature is going to increase or drop drastically while I'm in the office, and I will be inappropriately dressed to withstand such unpredictable conditions by 5 p.m.

 

The UAS O3 faceas a similar predicament. It is sent to different altitudes from different places at different times of the year. Think about it: getting dressed for a Colorado winter is far different from getting dressed for a Texas summer. The UAS O3 has to withstand drastically different environments while still providing highly accurate data recordings.

 

Before the UAS O3, the NOAA used to collect data on an instrument more than 20 years old, 57 lb, and not Internet-capable. It was time to upgrade to something newer, lighter, and more processing-powerful. The team used NI CompactRIO to command, control, and provide communication fore the UAS O3 because of its rugged versatility - a term I don't use lightly. If you can withstand an unpressurized compartment at 70,000 ft, be deployed to radically different altitudes, and measure atmospheric soot, ozone, nitric acid, and water vapor, among other things, you deserve to be called rugged and versatile.

 

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Sweet Ride on Sweet Apps

 

Learn more about the UAS O3 instrument and its sweet ride onboard the Global Hawk UAV in the full technical case study.

 

Written by Alex Masters