Engineering students at Oklahoma State University have designed storm-penetrating unmanned aircraft.
School officials say the drones are designed to fly into thunderstorms, including the super cells that spawn tornadoes and obtain meteorological data vital for weather forecasting.
"Oklahoma, along with many regions in the U.S., has to deal with severe weather year-round, but the often violent thunderstorms witnessed in the springtime are particularly worrisome," said Jamey Jacob, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor who supervised the project. "Better prediction methods can save lives, but this also requires more data about how storms form."
The aircraft were designed by students in the school's MAE department.
The drones will collect information about weather systems that can be used for both immediate forecasts of the storm's path and strength and for predictive models.
Three teams of students, the Barnstormers, the Flying Honey Badgers and the Stormtroopers designed an aircraft with corresponding onboard sensors, ground control, launch and recovery systems that could be deployed from a catapult or unimproved surface, such as a dirt road.
The drones are controlled by a pilot on the ground and relay data back to a ground crew.