Abstract

As the number of applications for small unmanned (i.e., remotely operated) aircraft systems (sUAS) continues to grow, comprehensive safety risk assessment studies are required to ensure their safe integration into the National Airspace System. One source of hazards for sUAS that has not been extensively addressed is adverse weather. A framework is presented for analyzing weather forecast data to provide sUAS operators with risk assessment information that they can use for making risk-aware decisions. The sUAS Weather Risk Model (sWRM) framework quantifies weather hazard risk for sUAS operations in rural to urban environments using weather forecast, population density, structure density, and sUAS data. sWRM is developed by following the safety risk management guidelines from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Development of sWRM highlights a number of aerospace and meteorological research areas that must be addressed prior to weather risk models for sUAS becoming operational. Primary among these research areas is developing widely available finescale (<1 km) weather forecasts and conducting extensive sUAS flight-report studies to accurately estimate parameters of Bayesian belief network conditional probability tables used in the proposed framework. As a proof of concept, sWRM was applied over Boulder, Colorado, using the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh weather product. This initial demonstration of sWRM highlights the potential effectiveness of a detailed risk assessment model that takes into account high-resolution weather and environmental data.

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