Acoustical studies of atmospheric events like convective storms, tornadoes, shear-induced turbulence, micro-bursts, acoustic gravity waves, and hurricanes over the past 50 years have established that these events are strong emitters of infrasound. Current methods to forecast near-term weather phenomenon is electromagnetic (EM)-based radar and data from radiosondes.

Radar is an active remote sensor with limited range and there is the possibility that radar beams will overshoot the mesocyclonic circulation. There is also a possibility that mesocyclonic circulation cannot be detected because of the conal region immediately above the radar set.

Radiosondes are launched twice a day from different locations of the world and meteorological data is collected to plot the STUV diagram and determine CAPE (Cumulative Average Potential Energy) values. Radiosondes are not reusable and used only at pre-determined locations around the globe. Moreover, a radiosonde can drift up to 125 miles from its release point. About 75,000 radiosondes are used every year.

Given this unmet need, NASA developed an advanced airborne meteorological system that can provide meteorological parameters at any location at any desired time. In addition to routinely used meteorological sensors, an infrasonic sensor is also included to determine wind shear at local and regional levels. The airborne system may also be used in towns and cities to track drones and UAVs in the area.

The airborne vehicle (UAV or drone) should be able to track seismic waves, magnetic storms, magneto-hydrodynamic waves, tornadoes, meteors, lightning, etc. This technology can be used to measure environmental turbulence including wind shear, vortices, and large and small eddies — an important factor in forecasting local and regional weather. It can also detect infrasound at ranges of many miles from the source and the shape of the acoustic power spectrum can be used to identify the type of turbulence in the atmosphere.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact NASA’s Licensing Concierge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call us at 202-358-7432 to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link here  for more information.


Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2021 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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