Micro-weather forecasts for UAS will be tested in New York

By Patrick C. Miller | November 09, 2018

CustomWeather Inc.—a provider of high-resolution weather data and alert services based in San Francisco—has entered into a partnership with TruWeather Solutions LLC to produce high-resolution forecasts supporting the specialized needs of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations.

The TruWeather Solutions and CustomWeather forecasts will be deployed over the next few months in the state of New York in conjunction with the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) Alliance. Anthony Basile, chief operations officer for the NUAIR Alliance, said the forecasts are key to the organization’s work with NASA and its partners in developing a 50-mile unmanned traffic management (UTM) corridor that will assist in safely integrating UAS into the national airspace.

“What they’re working on is being able to forecast micro-weather, looking at what’s going to be required for beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations (BVLOS)—such as package delivery—primarily in the canyons of cities and between buildings where winds and other weather phenomenon can be different from what you might find out in rural areas,” he explained.

TruWeather Solutions’ offers UAS operators high-resolution weather data through a proprietary model with terrain-capturing resolutions at 1,000 meters. It’s complemented by CustomWeather’s proprietary CW100 model, which provides more granular solutions at 100-meter resolution. Higher resolution data is needed in locations with varying terrain or where operators require the most precise data available.

“As we get deeper into UTM with NASA and BVLOS flying, these weather forecasts are going to be more important to what we’re trying to do,” Basile said. “The projects, the software and the modeling they’re working on will certainly have more importance to that effect.”

Last April, TruWeather Solutions won a third place $400,000 prize and the “Fan Favorite Award” in the Genius NY business competition. GENIUS NY is a business accelerator and one of the world's largest business competitions for unmanned systems. It’s run by CenterState CEO and The Tech Garden located in Syracuse, New York. TruWeather was one of six finalists competing for the $1 million grand prize.

Basile said the UTM traffic corridor will start with a four-mile by eight-mile block and then be followed by a larger block for BVLOS UAS operations. As planned, the entire UTM corridor is expected to be completed and ready for large-scale UAS operations by the summer of 2020. Basile expects NUAIR Alliance to receive a COA from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for BVLOS operations this month.

The role of micro-weather forecasting hasn’t been emphasized much for BVLOS UAS operations, but Basile believes that will soon change.

“There are many moving parts to make this happen, and weather’s one of the very important parts,” he said. “In all the discussions, all the projects we see and the RFPs that come from NASA and other large entities, weather is part of each one.

“It will continue to be increasingly important as we go along,” Basile continued. “Pulling weather from the internet—as least as far as beyond visual line of sight is concerned—is not going to hack it. It has to be more refined for where these UAS platforms are going to be flying.”