Embry-Riddle UAV Storm Chaser team completes first Remote Controlled flight



Kicking off a series of tests for its capstone project, the UAV Storm Chaser team at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University completed its first Remote Controlled (RC) flight of a UAV on Nov. 17.

Considered a “huge success,” the RC fight was used to demonstrate “all of the communication components of the UAV linking together properly, to calibrate the motors and motor controller, to get flight time, and to go through the process of setting up all of the parameters in mission planner.”

The UAV Storm Chaser team is one of five teams within Embry-Riddle’s Electrical, Computer, Software, and Systems Engineering (ECSSE) Capstone Class, which is a two-semester class that provides students in their final year with project experience that mirrors what they will experience in their respective fields of work.

At the beginning of the semester, projects were proposed by Embry-Riddle faculty members to the instructors of this year’s Capstone class, Dr. Massood Towhidnejad and Dr. Eduardo Rojas, who went on to select the most pertinent projects for the class.

As one of the projects presented this year, the UAV Storm Chasers project addresses the current technique used to obtain weather measurements in severe storms, which requires a pilot to fly directly into the eye of the storm to release a dropsonde. The dropsonde is used to collect various measurements from the storm, which it then sends back to the plane as it drops into the ocean where it degrades over time.

​This current technique can not only be life-threatening, but it can also be expensive as well; so with that in mind, the goal of the UAV Storm Chasers project is to develop a new safe and cost-effective method to collect severe storm measurements. Two quad-rotor UAVs are being built and designed to fly autonomously on the outer rim of the storm, and the UAVs will link together to communicate and coordinate their flight path.

In addition to the UAVs, a new circuit board is also being designed to allow for a “lighter and more cost-effective storm measurement unit that can be integrated with the UAVs.” The circuit board can measure the temperature, humidity, pressure and wind vectors of storms, and all the data will be relayed to a local ground station.

The UAV Storm Chaser team, which is made up of seven students, will next conduct a series of tests, starting with an autonomous flight. Several other tests of all of the necessary components will also be conducted to confirm their accuracy and precision. Once these tests occur, everything will be integrated together, and final tests will be performed.  

The final series of tests will be conducted in a local storm to “provide data on the communication and flight of the UAVs in severe weather and data from the weather measurement unit.”