Charting the Course

Advancing Winter Weather Prediction in North Dakota: The GrandSKY Weather Service
By Tom Swoyer and Don Berchoff | October 04, 2023

Weather in North Dakota is dynamic, characterized by its unpredictability and rapid fluctuations.  The region experiences diverse climatic conditions, with winters that can be particularly challenging for aviation. One area that faces these challenges head-on is the Grand Forks Air Force Base, home of the GrandSKY Business and Aviation Park. This year, an unprecedented collaboration between GrandSKY, TruWeather Solutions, and Meteomatics AG is poised to transform weather prediction, bringing more precise and accurate data to Grand Forks this winter through the Grand Sky Weather Service.

Challenges and Solutions
Satellite data has long been a staple in weather forecasting, but it comes with its own set of limitations. Factors like cloud cover and variations in water vapor levels can introduce inaccuracies into satellite data. In cases where data is incomplete, traditional forecasting methods often resort to approximations and estimations, introducing go/no go uncertainties, especially in critical operations. The challenges of overcoming data gaps below 5,000 ft present an even greater challenge when dealing with dynamic and rapidly changing conditions.

The collaboration between GrandSKY, TruWeather Solutions, and Meteomatics AG seeks to overcome these challenges by developing a robust data collection system. By bridging observational gaps with localized and real-time information, this partnership aims to significantly reduce uncertainties in what is happening now and what will happen in the future, providing stakeholders with the certainty they need to make informed decisions and reduce the number of flight cancellations and delays.

GrandSKY: A Visionary Initiative
The core principle driving GrandSKY is the utilization of real-time data collection, anchored by the cutting-edge capabilities of a Meteomatics Meteodrone, the nation's first drone-based weather data collection tool conducting routine launches to support mission critical flight operations. This cutting-edge system is set to redefine how weather data is collected, analyzed, and forecasted in the Grand Forks region. These flights are designed to capture vertical measurements of crucial weather parameters, including temperature, pressure, moisture, and wind. Moreover, the drone's capabilities extend to detecting icing phenomena within cloud layers up to an altitude of 16,900 feet. This granular data collection process not only refines weather forecasts but also offers insights into otherwise invisible and complex weather patterns. The influx of microscale data informs a 1-kilometer resolution weather model, a ninefold increase in granularity compared to existing services. This level of detail will reduce weather-related cancellations, and safely increase the number of flight operations for commercial partners at the GrandSKY Business and Aviation Park.

Empowering Decision-Making: TruWeather's V360 Analytics
The heart of any accurate weather forecasting system lies in its ability to process and analyze complex data sets. TruWeather Solutions' V360 Weather Workbook and machine-to-machine data transfers are integral to the GrandSKY Weather Service. The power of this SaaS platform facilitates seamless data exchange. These tools empower stakeholders with improved decision insights, ensuring better mission-critical decisions for operations conducted within the GrandSKY and Grand Forks AFB areas. Don Berchoff, CEO of TruWeather Solutions, aptly puts it, "Together, we've developed a robust weather data collection system unlike anything else in the country, so we can bring high-accuracy weather forecasts to Grand Sky." This sentiment encapsulates the transformative journey underway, where innovation meets collaboration to conquer the challenges posed by North Dakota's dynamic winters.

The Vision Ahead: Integrating Technology and Realizing Benefits
Weather forecasting is the new frontier for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. The future holds the promise of continually improving the accuracy of weather predictions. Beyond the immediate applications for aviation, this collaboration highlights a broader trend in the integration of weather data. The successful integration of such technologies into airspace is essential and will lead to the realization of benefits across other various sectors, including ground transportation, agriculture, energy, and commerce. GrandSKY's ultimate goal is to extend its weather modeling and forecasting services to aviation operations throughout North Dakota, ensuring safer and more efficient business operation.

The collaborative efforts of GrandSKY, TruWeather Solutions, and Meteomatics AG represent a leap forward in weather forecasting technology. As North Dakota braces for another winter, the innovations spearheaded by these partners promise to reshape how we approach weather prediction and analysis. With routine Meteodrone flights capturing real-time and granular data, and a sophisticated 1km resolution weather model at its core, the GrandSKY Weather Service seeks to enhance decision-making, increase flight operations, and drive revenue growth for commercial partners.

Authors: Tom Swoyer, Founder and President at GrandSKY
Don Berchoff, CEO at TruWeather Solutions

Printed in the 2023 Issue of UAS Magazine