by Senior Airman Shandresha Mitchell
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
6/6/2013 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- While
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Aircraft Operations
Center is most often associated with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters, many
other important missions are also conducted from MacDill, especially
with the new addition of Unmanned Aerial Systems.
"The arrival of Unmanned Aerial Systems marks a definite transition into
the next generation of aviation platforms that are becoming available
to the public and civil sectors," said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Mansour, AOC's
UAS section chief.
The missions of the UAS include marine mammal surveys, sea bird surveys, marine debris and living marine resources.
While NOAA is in the early phases of conducting UAS operations,
platforms such as Global Hawk, PUMA All-Environment, Quadrocopter and
Hexacopter are being demonstrated and analyzed for their use in
collecting environmental intelligence.
Masour explained that "NOAA is relatively new to the UAS spectrum; we
are rapidly gaining experience assisting with our federal partners in
understanding what the systems are capable of, and also obtaining a
proficiency in using the technology appropriately. The opportunity to
leverage the unique capabilities of the UAS is truly exciting."
As of now, NOAA AOC has three UAS. The fixed wing PUMA A-E is a battery
powered UAS capable of flying up to 10,000 ft. It gives a bird's-eye
view of areas of interest and is used for sensitive studies that are
problematic to low flying manned aircraft. To date, the PUMA A-E
platform has been utilized more than any UAS in NOAA's inventory.
"The PUMA A-E provides our scientists access to an aerial asset for data
collection in remote locations and in unfavorable conditions where
normally it is very difficult to operate manned aircraft," said Lt. (JG)
Tanner Sims, AOC PUMA program manager.
Aside from fixed-wing operations, Vertical Takeoff and Landing platforms
are becoming more frequently requested by principal investigators. The
Quadrocopter and the Hexacopter are used for rugged terrain and rough
sea patches. They can hover for long periods of time to photograph areas
"With such excellent stability and handling characteristics, the
Quadrocopter and the Hexacopter can move almost silently in tight
operating areas, making them ideal for projects ranging from marine
mammal observations to disaster site monitoring after natural
disasters," said Lt. Chris Daniels, AOC UAS VTOL manager.
Another UAS VTOL asset is the WMD59.
"I created a NOAA asset for a NOAA demand," said Mark Rogers, AOC UAS lead technician.
Rogers built the WMD59 as an on-base trainer for the Quadrocopter. The
WMD59 helps improve the proficiency in controlling VTOL and their
platforms. It will assist the AOC UAS section in meeting the
requirements for targets that require VTOL.
"NOAA's AOC will continue to pair the right aerial platform to meet the
mission requirements and exceed customer expectations," Mansour said.
"It is my job to work with my team of federal, state and local partners
to enable scientific research, promote safety and ensure that we
coordinate the right assets to every mission.
"It is very gratifying to use cutting-edge technology to help the
population at large understand what our planet is doing, how it is
impacting our lives and what options we have to protect it."