To successfully integrate small UAS (sUAS) operations in the NAS it is essential to improve the microscale weather prediction. sUAS weigh less than 55 lbs. and 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 manmade 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 sUAS 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 forecast hyperlocal weather is a critical requirement for sUAS operations. During Phase I of the project the team demonstrated the feasibility of the concept by forecasting winds over a nine-block urban area in Manhattan. The technology 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. For the Phase II effort the team proposes to expand the use of GUMP over a larger urban as well as rural area while validating the results with mobile ground-based sensors. When fully functional, GUMP will fill 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.