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Weather Balloons to be Replaced by Drones Soon by India

Several research have shown that specialized drones equipped with weather sensors might be a viable replacement for standard weather balloons.

Shruti Kandwal
Weather Balloons to be Replaced by Drones Soon by India
Weather Balloons to be Replaced by Drones Soon by India

India plans to use drones to collect atmospheric data, which is presently collected by sending sensors through weather balloons released twice daily from at least 55 locations across the country.

As the hydrogen-filled weather balloon climbs to a height of 12 km, sensors placed in a radiosonde, a telemetry instrument carried by a weather balloon, record atmospheric pressure, temperature, wind direction, and speed and communicate data to a ground receiver through radio signals.

Weather balloons and radiosondes, on the other hand, are unrecoverable since they float far away from the weather stations that release them into the sky.

M Ravichandran, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, told PTI, "We are currently examining the idea of utilizing drones to obtain this atmospheric data, which is vital for weather forecasting."

Several research have shown that specialized drones equipped with weather sensors might be a viable replacement for standard weather balloons.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) collects meteorological data from 550 places around the nation via weather stations and uses radiosonde observations to generate weather predictions, which are subsequently incorporated into forecasting models.

Drones offer a significant advantage over weather balloons in that they can be controlled and guided to fly at low or high altitudes. The IMD intends to collect data from up to five km altitude using drones and compare it to data collected using traditional weather balloons.

It has asked industry and academia to participate in a demonstration of drone technology's capabilities for weather observation.

"Drones are predicted to be competent, economically viable, quickly deployable and recoverable, and technically similar or superior to already deployed radiosondes for upper air observations up to the boundary layer of the upper air atmosphere," according to the weather service.

While a weather balloon trip may last up to two hours, the IMD intends to collect data with drones within the course of a 40-minute flight.

If successful, one of the major benefits would be a decrease in radiosonde wastage, since the IMD loses almost 100 of these devices per day because weather balloons cannot be collected after their flight.

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