Flying an aircraft while executing a mission is intense. The pilot must fly their aircraft, navigate their route and monitor the position and status of aircraft around them, all while avoiding threatening/ adverse weather. This requires heightened situational awareness (SA) along with the pilot's undivided attention …all senses and attention go into overdrive. Now take the pilot out of the mix and execute the mission from a remote operating site, as with drones or unmanned aerial vehicles, and SA can drop dramatically; especially when severe weather and other environmental effects, such as icing, turbulence, and lightning, are present. Without the “eyes in the cockpit,” vital environmental information/intelligence (EI) and reference cues are lost. Replacing those “pilot’s eyes” and serving as EI collectors, interpreters, and situational awareness advisors to these drone operators is Alexandria (Virginia) based PEMDAS® Technologies & Innovations, a technology leader leveraging EI to enhance mission success for the DoD’s drone and unmanned vehicle operations.
PEMDAS employs proprietary airborne sensors, small and lightweight, to sense local atmospheric parameters which are then processed to provide real-time warnings of adverse weather to drone and UAV operators. These warnings include icing, convective clouds, and wind. The company’s sensor designs are the product of rigorous testing with military clients, which ensure that space, weight, and power consumption parameters are the best-in-class. These real-time atmospheric data are then data-linked for integration into a robust enterprise algorithm server which further processes the data and combines it with other weather information to characterize the surrounding environment with high fidelity and accuracy, and further identify hazards such as clouds with lightning, areas of turbulence, winds, rain, and more. The resulting robust environmental intelligence is delivered to the operator as a set of decision tools that forecast the weather, and provide advisement, over the entire duration of the drone's mission.
Our solution can update forecasts every 15 to 30 minutes with ground pictures and analysis fed directly to an operator's control system
The heightened SA afforded by PEMDAS’ innovative technologies allow the pilot to efficiently plan navigation routes with much higher knowledge of the timing and location of adverse weather threats, providing a comprehensive understanding of the likely hazards that could affect mission outcome. These PEMDAS proprietary algorithms reside within an enterprise server and are able to provide robust end-state EI from the “Now” out to 96 hours into the future. Every solution is individualized according to the client's mission requirements. “We ensure that the visualization is very much user-friendly, so it provides just the information that is critical to complete that operation,” says Mary Lockhart, President and CEO of PEMDAS.
Using a cloud infrastructure and multiple servers, PEMDAS updates forecasts every 15 to 30 minutes and immediately delivers high fidelity decision tools to the operator's control system. The firm has built automated rule-sets for four dimensions (latitude and longitude, altitude, and time) into the solution which allows it to provide granular customizations for varied customer needs.
The firm is a recognized contributor to NASA's Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) system working group. Together with the FAA and NASA, PEMDAS uses the UTM as a platform to discuss safety issues and policies that could be instrumental to defining safe and efficient low-altitude flight operations for drones in civilian airspace. With most members of the team coming from military weather or aviation background, PEMDAS is ideally positioned to provide high-level expertise to the commercial industry.
In 2015, the Navy and NOAA Fisheries approached PEMDAS for assistance in monitoring whale migration patterns in the Arctic region. Extremely adverse weather threatened the use of unmanned vehicles and posed a major challenge to NOAA’s initiative. PEMDAS provided drone operators with the high fidelity EI necessary to transform generic weather information into insightful intelligence regarding the precise location of useable airspace and optimal working altitudes. Their products and services enabled operators to optimize their mission planning resulting in extended sortie durations that maximized NOAA’s whale migration monitoring activities.
When asked what made PEMDAS stand out from others in the market, PEMDAS’ Senior Scientist, Dr. Mike Gauthier, responded “We are pushing the norms relative to the exploitation of weather data, moving towards prescriptive (vice predictive) analytics. This approach not only equips decision makers with advanced knowledge of what is anticipated to happen, but also (more importantly) advises them of what they should do in order to achieve a desired result under such a scenario.” PEMDAS plans to continue to focus on its military clientele while adding more commercial clients to its basket.