How local researchers plan to use drones to help pinpoint when, where thunderstorms will form

NORMAN, Okla. - Researchers from across the country are working to utilize drones in the study of weather.

The group consists of researchers from NOAA’s severe weather lab, OU and the University of Colorado and Mathematics as well as many pilots and computer scientists.

Organizers say they are working to test the value of drones in the study of the atmosphere and thunderstorms.

"This is cutting edge science we're doing here," said Steve Koch, the director of the National Severe Weather Lab at the National Weather Center.

"The aircraft is carrying a pressure temperature humidity sensor. It's basically the same sensor that's carried on the weather balloons that we've adapted to attach inside the aircraft,” Dr. Rian Argrow, from the University of Colorado and Mathematics, said.

They had a great chance to put the project to the test just this week when storms swept through the Coyle area.

"I wasn't sure that anything really was going to develop but as we were launching these unmanned aircraft systems up and down we began to see information in the data that suggests that the atmosphere was becoming explosive,” Koch said.

Just 30 minutes later, the storm formed, eventually producing softball hail.

"What we're trying to do is fill in gaps in time and space from our observing networks that the National Weather Service has currently,” Koch said.

The main goal is to pinpoint if, when and where thunderstorms will form. This will potentially improve short term weather forecasts.

"It's exciting to have such expert people from different disciplines come together on a common problem," Coch said.

The drones do not include cameras.

The group will be sending the aircraft up through May 20.