Drones Will Study Weather Patterns During Monday’s Total Solar Eclipse

Researchers from Oklahoma State University and the University of Nebraska are over the moon at the chance.

We’re in the closing stages of the countdown to Monday’s solar eclipse, where the moon will cross directly between our planet and the sun in a fascinating reminder that we’re all just floating in outer space. And while most people will return to their daily lives after those awe-inspiring few minutes, not everyone is just there for the show. According to Popular Science, the coming eclipse will prove to be a perfect opportunity for atmospheric scientists from Oklahoma State University and the University of Nebraska to study the influence of our sun on the weather patterns on Earth’s “low sky” environment—using drones, of course.

This project isn’t the only one using unmanned aerial vehicles to study climate-related scenarios, however. The “Collaboration Leading Operational Unmanned Development for Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics” (CLOUD MAP) project is comprised of four universities, and an attempt to understand how best to use drones in order to study weather most effectively. According to PopularScience, the area benefiting the most from drone use is the lower atmospheric layer – below airplanes and weather balloons but above towers and other structures. 

Jamey Jacob, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Oklahoma State University,told Popular Science that they’ll specifically be studying how the rapid decrease in solar heat can affect weather patterns in the path of totality, as it basically simulates the day-night cycle and the accompanying temperature (and weather) changes that come with that.  

This is a rare opportunity that the two universities in question are eager to take advantage of. The drones being used will be fitted with temperature-measuring sensors, as well as analyzing humidity, pressure, and ultrasonic readings that measure the wind. “It may sound relatively simple but essentially you take away that radiation, that heat in a certain area, it starts to cool down, as it cools down you essentially get a giant sucking effect from the hot air around and into this colder region,” says Jacob.

Personally, this is a very interesting project and one that we here at Aerial are excited to see the results of. Naturally, Jamey Jacob agrees. “Nothing, could be cooler or geekier.” We’ll be sure to keep you posted on this research project, and report on its findings, as soon as we can.