There are a number challenges to small UAS operations in the NAS. One of the most critical of these is access to microscale, hyperlocal weather estimates and predictions.
Small UAS weigh less than 55 lbs have the risk of losing control in presence of light winds and gusts. The risk is amplified in urban areas due to presence of tall building and other man made objects. The phenomenon of urban canyon can cause high winds between building that are beyond the capabilities of current meso scale weather prediction models. High demand operations such as package delivery involves the UAS to take off from fulfilment center, travel to the destination and land where the customers are and takeoff for the return journey. Therefore, the ability to predict hyperlocal weather is a critical requirement for UAS in the NAS operations. The team propose to develop GUMP, a weather service that combines the coarse estimates of mesoscale prediction from NOAA weather products with high fidelity but localized ground station data using machine learning and computation fluid dynamics simulations. The innovative approach is scalable and transferrable to urban or rural areas. The computational workload is minimized by building on weather forecast publically available. GUMP fills a critical gap in weather prediction technology that will be beneficial for NASA researchers and industry UAS operators.
Researchers at NASA will find the tool useful for exploration of new concepts in small UAS operations. The service will allow them to identify times of day best suited for specific applications, e.g., package delivery operations should occur at times with very relatively calm weather while surveillance operations can take place in presence of mild winds as these operations do not involve landing. The operations can be designed as per local weather neighborhoods.
GUMP service would be most beneficial for commercial operators of sUAS. At present no such service exists. Companies like Amazon, Google and Uber are investing millions of dollars towards sUAS operations and this service would help them improve the reliability of their operations. General aviation pilots can also use the service then taking off from an un-towered airport.