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FOX23 Investigates: Drones impact the future of weather forecasting

by: Melodie Lettkeman Updated:

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Drones may look like expensive toys, but at the end of an “Epic” project, they could help save lives.

FOX23 was the first news station to put up a drone in the aftermath of tornadoes, using the SkyView Drone to capture the aftermath of a 2016 tornado in Owasso.

Now that the “after” part of storm coverage has been explored, the “before” comes into focus.

FOX23 Meteorologist Ben Walnick met up with researchers in western Oklahoma that hope drones can change the future of weather forecasting.

Bringing together researches from the National Severe Storm Laboratory, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, the University of Colorado and private company Meteomatics, Project Epic wants to move forecasting to the future.

The basic drone they use looks the same as most on the market, but a few bells and whistles join the ride. Sometimes, all the way up to a max height of 2,500 feet.

At Enid’s Woodring Regional Airport, researchers prepared to check out a storm cell north of the area. They loaded up tools, driving Twister the weather drone to join a couple other small drones.

Together, the trio captured real-time, never-before-recorded storm data.  

The complex data go to the National Weather Service and the Storm Prediction Center. There, meteorologists will analyze it to figure out what’s useful.

While drones are up in the air for the project, a future of weather drones daring across the Oklahoma sky at speeds up to 80 mph is still years away.