Researchers test drones in Oklahoma to forecast severe weather

STILLWATER, Okla. - Students and scientists gathered at the OSU UAS Flight Station on Tuesday in hopes of improving severe weather warnings.

It's part of the CLOUD-MAP project, and students from the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, University of Kentucky and University of Nebraska launched drones to measure weather conditions.

“Really, what we’re looking for is developing systems to help us better understand the atmosphere and improve weather forecasting," said Jamey Jacob, director of the Unmanned Research Institute at OSU.

The conditions can be relayed to the National Weather Service, and the goal is to give more lead time on severe weather.

The drones can fly higher than traditional radars and relay things like humidity, sheer and temperature. The drones are also equipped with sensors and can fly up to 3,000 feet.

A big goal of the project is to enhance tornado warnings.

“What we’d like to be able to do is get to an hour, and the meteorologists are confident that, if we provide them with the correct data, they’ll be able to get it to that point," Jacob said.

The project still has about two more years of testing and, once the drones are used in practice, they can also help warn pilots of turbulence.