University of Calgary

Susan Skone

Revolutionizing weather prediction

Canadians are no strangers to severe weather. Ice storms, blizzards, thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes threaten people’s safety and can cause damage with devastating economic implications. That’s why accurate and timely predictions of severe weather are crucial. Susan Skone, associate professor in geomatics engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, is revolutionizing the collection of weather data.
“We’re engineers, so we develop the tools and the methods for measuring the information meteorologists require,” explains Skone, whose research focuses on satellite navigation and Global Positioning System (GPS) applications as they relate to meteorology. “We develop the probes or systems that will measure temperature, humidity and winds for meteorologists to use in their weather models.”
Environment Canada wants to improve weather forecasts by implementing an Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay System. Skone and colleague Naser El-Sheimy are developing a meteorological aircraft probe along with industry partner AeroMechanical Services Ltd. of Calgary.
“It’s a great opportunity for our graduate students to work with an industry partner on a project where they’re actually going to see practical impact.” The company has a unique system to communicate data from aircraft in real time using a satellite link. The goal is to fly probes on small, regional aircraft in remote areas of the country where no weather data is currently available. Information would be sold to Environment Canada and relayed in real time.
“If we can develop a probe that can be manufactured for $1,500 or less, they can be deployed very easily on a large number of aircraft. It’s innovative and has never been done before. We hope to take this technology and have it adopted by other agencies worldwide and commercialize it further.”
Agencies in Australia and Europe have already expressed interest.
“I’m excited to imagine that these probes will fly on hundreds of aircraft, delivering data that will have a positive impact on the safety of Canadians, even in other countries,” says Skone. “To have a small part in that is a great opportunity.”
This work is supported through funding from Environment Canada and the GEOIDE Strategic Investment Initiative program.

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