The underlying framework for modern-day weather forecasting is numerical weather prediction (NWP). The accuracy of NWP is closely linked to the accuracy as well as the spatial resolution, temporal resolution, and coverage of atmospheric observations assimilated into the NWP models. Even the current and planned combination of in situ and remote sensing platforms leaves observational gaps that are insufficient to meet the requirements of NWP.
Current weather forecast providers generally have access to the same suite of publicly available data and use similar NWP modeling systems/algorithms to generate products. Therefore, no single system typically outperforms others by large margins based on forecast accuracy when aggregated over weeks to months, although substantial variability in performance is common for specific cases, locations, and applications.
The key to improving weather forecasts is to greatly expand simultaneous measurements of model-dependent variables. The GlobalSense system offers a unique and innovative approach to fill these data gaps. Improved forecast accuracy has significant social and economic value to many weather-sensitive sectors of the global economy including energy, transportation, agriculture, air quality, and recreation.
Such data could also provide calibration and validation for space-based remote sensing of winds and carbon dioxide or other trace gases. This capability could extend the potential of GlobalSense to applications involving air quality and greenhouse gas initiatives related to global climate change. A GlobalSense system could have much broader application beyond traditional weather forecasting by measuring acoustic, magnetic, chemical, nuclear, or other parameters of interest for national security and defense related applications.
The GlobalSense system combines three main elements
- an ensemble of disposable, airborne micro-probes
- mechanisms to deploy probes, and
- receiver platforms to gather data from the probes
The novel probe design exploits component miniaturization as well as integration to minimize complexity, cost, size, mass, fall speed, and power consumption yet still provide measurement accuracy equivalent to or better than currently accepted observing technology. This innovation is based on the trend for ubiquitous sensing and the “internet of things” – extremely large numbers of disposable, low-cost electronic devices that measure various parameters and communicate that data to support many different applications.
With low enough mass and an aerodynamic shape based on bio-inspired designs (e.g. dandelion seeds), GlobalSense probes will be designed to remain airborne and make measurements for hours or longer depending on atmospheric conditions and release altitude. The probe target mass is less than 1 gram with size on the order of centimeters. In addition to minimizing fall speed, these specifications also greatly reduce hazards to people or property as probes settle through the atmosphere.
The ultra-compact probes will integrate micro- and nanotechnology-based components to provide low cost, wireless sensing well beyond current capability. Probes will transmit ultra-low power signals in one of the industrial, scientific, and medical radio bands to avoid expensive licensing requirements. The fixed or mobile receiver platforms will contain hardware and software to decode data packets from multiple probes within range and store or retransmit the information to other locations.
The GlobalSense system is being developed by leveraging internal funding and external-sponsored projects.
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