TruWeather Solutions Playing Key Operational Role During FAA UPP2 At New York UAS Test Site
TruWeather Solutions (TWS) continues to support Phase 2 of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) Pilot Program (UPP) at the New York UAS Test Site in Rome, New York. UPP Phase 2 will showcase capabilities and services that support high-density UAS operations, including remote identification services and public safety operations. Data collected from UPP Phase 2 tests will help inform a cross-agency UTM system implementation plan.
TWS is providing micro-weather data products and live forecaster support during the demonstration. We are also evaluating the benefit of having a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system to better measure winds above ground level. The LEOSPHERE Vaisala WindCube system is actively collecting vertical wind measurements to aid in monitoring for dangerous wind conditions and in determining the benefit of having this unique dataset as part of a total micro-weather observation network to support high-density drone operations. “Companies are looking for everything, from flight plans, flight restrictions, and current weather conditions available in a single pane of glass. TWS is testing new data sources, such as the LIDAR data, to improve micro-weather measurements. If these new sources show value and a business model, TWS can translate the weather data into simple insights for airspace managers and operators to UTM systems,” said Gary.
What TWS has learned in working in the field with operators and airspace managers is gaining stakeholder trust must be job number one. When weather or winds are a factor in UAS operations, it introduces uncertainty in making mission decisions. How the operator makes decisions is influenced by their confidence in the weather products and the aviation meteorologists they deal with day to day. Therefore, it is important to establish competence and reliability to build trusting relationships with operators. “TWS is simply taking the lessons learned supporting military missions in the past, of which include recognizing that the bond between meteorologist and decisionmaker is indispensable when weather unexpectedly strikes,” said Col (Ret-USAF) Don Berchoff, TWS Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
On Wednesday, October 7th, 2020, UPP2 was impacted by a severe weather event during the early afternoon hours. Preceding the event, TWS UAS Meteorologist Nick Rodick was in close contact with decisionmakers about the threat. He identified the possibility the week prior, which helped inform operational planning for UPP2. He continued refining and honing his timing and impact expectations. On Tuesday, he briefed leadership, and a decision was made to cancel flying on Wednesday. On Wednesday, winds and severe thunderstorms developed (as expected) with strong winds gusting to 40-50 mph, heavy rain, frequent lightning, and small hail. Tony Basile, Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Acting CEO at NUAIR, and UPP2 Mission Commander said following the event, “Although we typically do not cancel operations on a forecast, the weather call was made based on the confidence in the TruWeather team and their knowledge of UTM systems, weather impacts to drones, and their experience in weather services to aviation. This gave everyone an extra day in the office, uninterrupted and without distractions, to accomplish other priority tasks instead of waiting for a weather window that never came. Calling off drone operations redirected 14 people involved in the project on other tasks regaining 8 hours of their time.” UPP2 operations recommenced on Thursday and were successfully completed on Friday. On Wednesday, NUAIR and the team at Griffiss recouped 112 man-hoursfor other work, and first responders participating in the event saved a day of travel and time themselves, rather than waiting and watching the weather all day only to not fly.
It was an exciting week supporting UPP2. TruWeather gathered a great deal of information from the Vaisala WindCube for analysis, and we contributed to ensuring safe and efficient UPP2 mission execution. Additionally, we helped NUAIR and others direct valuable resources to other tasks.