CopterSonde Achieves NOAA Airworthiness Approval

We are thrilled to announce that the CopterSonde, our flagship Uncrewed Aerial System (UAS) platform, has received airworthiness approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) UAS Division. This significant milestone allows the CopterSonde to be operated on NOAA missions and projects, opening up new opportunities for atmospheric research and data collection.

A Rigorous Approval Process

Gaining this approval was no small feat. The process was lengthy and demanded focused attention from our entire team. It involved:

  • Comprehensive documentation of the CopterSonde’s specifications and capabilities
  • Detailed safety protocols and procedures
  • Extensive testing and performance evaluations

Flight Demonstration at Kessler Farm

A critical part of the approval process was a live flight demonstration at the Kessler Atmospheric and Ecological Field Station (KAFES). With NOAA representatives in attendance, our team showcased the CopterSonde’s capabilities, including:

  • All failsafe mechanisms
  • Maneuverability and flight performance
  • Safety constraints and emergency procedures This demonstration allowed NOAA officials to evaluate the CopterSonde’s performance in real-world conditions and verify its compliance with their stringent safety and operational standards.
A representative from the NOAA UAS Division visited Norman to conduct the Airworthiness evaluation.
A representative from the NOAA UAS Division visited Norman to conduct the Airworthiness evaluation.

Implications for Research

This airworthiness approval is a game-changer for our research capabilities. It allows us to:

  • Participate in NOAA-led research missions
  • Collaborate more closely with NOAA scientists
  • Contribute to a wider range of atmospheric and environmental studies

Positive Feedback

The approval process and subsequent demonstration left a strong impression on the NOAA staff. As Ken Carson from the University of Oklahoma noted: “I think the NOAA staff were very impressed with your operations!”

This feedback underscores the professionalism and expertise of our team, as well as the robust capabilities of the CopterSonde platform.

Looking Ahead

With this approval, we are excited to explore new research avenues and collaborations with NOAA. The CopterSonde’s ability to collect high-resolution atmospheric data will undoubtedly contribute to NOAA’s mission of understanding and predicting changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts.

We extend our gratitude to the entire team who worked tirelessly to achieve this approval, as well as to our partners at NOAA for their thorough evaluation and support throughout the process

Dr. Antonio R. Segales
Dr. Antonio R. Segales
Research Engineer

My research centers around developing small unmanned aircraft systems for adaptive atmospheric sampling which involves CAD modeling, systems optimization, hardware and software integration, and control theory. I have led the design of the CopterSonde series of vehicles, which is used to perfrom controlled and targeted weather sampling at high temporal and spatial resolutions. I am also advising other projects in which sensor integration or new UAS are required.

Dr. Elizabeth N. Smith
Dr. Elizabeth N. Smith
Research Meteorologist

Elizabeth joined NSSL as a research meteorologist in January 2020, where she focuses on boundary-layer processes relevant to near- and pre-storm environments and convection initiation.

Dr. Tyler M. Bell
Dr. Tyler M. Bell
Research Scientist

Tyler is a Research Associate in CIWRO working on using ground-based remote sensors and WxUAS to advance the understanding of various boundary layer processes. He is acitvely exploring ways to optimally combine data collected from WxUAS and ground-based remote sensing.