OSU Researchers Gather Storm Damage Data With Drones To Improve Forecasting

When it comes to storms, data from the aftermath helps researchers develop better forecasts. Oklahoma State uses drone technology to help meteorologists. 

Friday, May 17th 2024, 10:26 pm

By: News 9, Jordan Fremstad


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When it comes to storms, data from the aftermath helps researchers develop better forecasts. Oklahoma State uses drone technology to help meteorologists. 

OSU is working to develop three-dimensional models of storms and their path. Researchers said the data they collect can help improve building designs and give people more time to get to safety.  

A bird’s eye view reveals the evidence of a storm’s power. However, images of a problem from the air offer solutions on the ground. “Put more attention on smaller communities that tend to be less researched,” said Brian Giffin, an assistant professor of civil engineering at OSU. 

Giffin has a vision to serve his community. His team is using drones to understand a storm – at the sight of the EF-4 tornado that tore through Barnsdall on May 6. “We’re really interested in assessing where is damage occurring. What’s the extent of damage – what are the types of buildings being damaged?” Giffin said. 

OSU’s Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education is leading this effort. Research and design engineer Emalee Hough grew up in Oklahoma. She said their work offers data to improve forecasts. “Being able to be a part of that was very important for me,” Hough said. “We provide for our neighbors. We’re gonna help regardless.” 

OAIRE Director Jamey Jacob said they plan to create a network of drones that can collect information as storms form. "As these storms are forming, you can push a button, these drones fly up, get that data – all completely autonomously -- and feed that back into the National Weather Service,” Jacob said. 

While the work to rebuild continues, researchers' eyes in the sky may pave another path toward building stronger communities. “Certainly, there have been important improvements on that front,” Giffin said. 

Giffin said this data also helps them develop strategies to allocate resources more effectively. OSU researchers said they were able to find places to research thanks to meteorologists quickly. They said the work of broadcast meteorologists is also vital to protecting Oklahomans. 

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