Natural phenomena are always peculiar and some of them are very difficult to understand. Man has been utilizing enhanced and improved technical equipment for many years to better understand these natural occurrences. One such phenomenon is the supercell thunderstorms that wander throughout the central United States. These thunderstorms are often accompanied by tornadoes. Scientists have been learning about these tornadoes in detail. Now, they have resorted to drone technology to help them understand in more detail about this happening.

TORUS Project tornadoes

Targeted Observation by Radars and UAS of Supercells

The TORUS project will be carried out by over fifty atmospheric scientists and students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. They will use a huge entourage of instrumentation to study various atmospheric factors like wind speed, humidity, temperature, and pressure. They have employed sensors calibrated to high levels of sensitivity and accuracy to detect and measure these atmospheric parameters efficiently. The data collected from these drones will then be used to improve conceptual models of supercell thunderstorms.

flying drones into tornadoes TORUS project

Project specifications

The total cost of this project is estimated at around 2.4 million U.S. dollars. The personnel involved in the project are split into twelve teams, and they will deploy these fixed-wing drones in the U.S. Great Plains during the storm season of 2019 and 2020. These drones will fly at an altitude of 800 metres. The project team is looking forward to study the supercell tornadoes from every possible angle to understand in depth about what is actually going on.

TORUS Project drones

There will be ground-based observation teams along with the remaining teams using Unmanned Aerial Systems to observe the tornadoes. Among several other instruments, these drones will use radiosondes – battery powered telemetry instruments that measure various atmospheric parameters and transmit them to ground stations by radio.

image captured by a drone from TORUS Project

Drones can be very influential in targeting different angles of the tornadoes. They can enter the tornadoes at any altitude and any desired angle. These drones are built to withstand the heavy winds and extreme weather conditions so that they can even enter the most difficult point of observation in the tornado. In addition to this, these drones can be used to observe the weather in vast areas of land. The TORUS project covers 367,000 square miles — including North Dakota to Texas and Iowa to Wyoming and Colorado.

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