Tornadoes are notoriously hard to predict and to study, but better understanding the complex processes that lead to their formation is crucial to providing the sort of advance notice needed to save lives. Researchers in Project TORUS are turning to drones to better study these dangerous storms.
Project TORUS, short for Targeted Observations by RADARs and UAS of Supercells, is using drones to help study the complex airflow and meteorological parameters around tornadic storms. Getting real-time data from such storms is notoriously difficult. Project TOTO (Totable Tornado Observatory) ran into serious safety issues in the 1980s, as researchers had little time (on the order of a few dozen seconds) to deploy the instrument in front of a tornado and escape to safety, and sadly, well-known and respected chaser and researcher Tim Samaras, his son, Paul, and Carl Young were killed by the 2013 El Reno tornado. DOW (Doppler on Wheels) has provided a big step forward by using mobile RADAR mounted on the back of large trucks to observe tornadoes at a close distance without having to get into their path, but the drones will allow researchers to send instruments into the windfield of the storm without having to physically take them there themselves, representing a big step forward in safety. Check out the video above to see how they work.