Sensor-Laden Balloons that Become Part of a Swarm of Robots Could Track Hurricanes

Published by , January 23, 2017 9:17 am

(JacobsSchoolUCSD)  Researchers at UC San Diego have developed practical strategies for building and coordinating scores of sensor-laden balloons within hurricanes. These devices have the potential to greatly improve efforts to estimate and forecast the intensity and track of future hurricanes in real time. Using onboard GPS and cellphone-grade sensors, each drifting balloon becomes part of a “swarm’’ of robotic vehicles, which can periodically report, via satellite uplink, their position, the local temperature, pressure, humidity and wind velocity.
Key challenges in this effort include the design of small, robust, buoyancy-controlled balloons that won’t accumulate ice; the efficient coordination of the motion of these balloons to keep them moving within the hurricane, between an altitude of 0 and 8 kilometers (about 5 miles); and to keep them well distributed over the dynamically significant regions within the hurricane, for up to a week at a time.

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