New drones made from disposable materials offer an inexpensive option for collecting data in high-risk environments—like measuring the speed of a wildfire or the temperature of a volcano.
After use, the drones are left to decompose wherever they land.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been using disposable and expendable unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to track high-impact weather such as tropical cyclones and hurricanes. Because of their small size, UAS can also monitor marine sanctuaries and other protected ecosystems without human interference.
“We want to get the cost as low as possible, so we use these instead of manned aircraft,” said Robbie Hood, the UAS program director for NOAA. “We can put them in dangerous situations, so if we do lose them, we haven’t lost human life.”
Here are three disposable drones created to collect information in areas even the most daring storm chaser would not enter.
Humans aren’t the only ones suffering through the summer heat—Arctic icebergs have to fight to survive rapid changes in ocean conditions during the summer melt period. The DataHawk, designed by engineers Dale Lawrenceand Scott Palo of the University of Colorado Boulder, will study at a low cost what local conditions are contributing to ice melt in the Arctic Ocean.
The DataHawk will be deployed this week from the north slope of Alaska to a targeted landing spot on the sea surface. Once the drone lands, it will float as a buoy while releasing censors to different depths of the Arctic Ocean, measuring water temperatures down to a depth of 33 feet (10 meters).
The drone is being used as a part of the University of Colorado’s Marginal Ice Zone Observations and Processes Experiment, which tracks variables such as sea surface salinity and temperature in the Arctic to understand why ice melt is occurring at such a rapid rate.