Town Hall: An Unmanned Systems Strategic Data Enterprise (NOAA)
Tuesday, October 6
Sharon Mesick, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Rost Parsons Ph.D., NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Eric Kihn, Ph.D., NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Patrick Hogan, Ph.D., NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) hosts and provides access to one of the most significant environmental data archives on Earth for comprehensive oceanic, atmospheric, and geophysical data. NCEI preserves and stewards a broad range of data, maximizing the Nation’s investment in data as a strategic asset. NCEI is working to foster innovative and value-added strategies, including the development of newly integrated products and services that span the science disciplines and enable better data discovery, access, interoperability and reusability.
NCEI seeks to gather user requirements from our unmanned system technology partners about establishing a functional and adequately resourced data enterprise that accommodates moving large volumes of quality-controlled data generated by unmanned system activities. NCEI works closely with all facets of NOAA to ensure consistent, long-term data usefulness. NCEI’s information would not fully be realized, however, without our public and private partners who help users access and understand NCEI’s assets.
Unmanned Systems (UxS) are sensor-equipped vehicles that operate autonomously or are remotely piloted. NOAA currently uses UxS for seafloor and habitat mapping, ocean exploration, marine mammal and fishery stock assessments, emergency response, and at-sea observations that improve forecasting of extreme events, such as harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.With the release of NOAA’s Unmanned Systems Strategy, NOAA has made a commitment to implement an innovative and robust UxS data enterprise that accommodates moving large volumes of quality—controlled UxS-generated data to shoreside processing and storage centers—and that significantly increases the quantity, quality, and throughput of these data. According to a report, the global unmanned underwater vehicles market was valued at around $2.92 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach approximately $7.64 billion by 2025 (Zion Market Research, 2019). The rising demand for these vehicles, coupled with the ability of the vehicles to include more scientific instruments, means an exponential increase in the amount of data produced.
UxS are not new to NOAA, but the recent surge in the availability of highly proficient systems has brought an rapid increase in their use in many NOAA programs. NOAA’s establishment of the Unmanned Systems Operations Program within NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) underscores the importance of these transformational systems to the agency and its mission. The new program will promote the safe, efficient and economical operation of UxS NOAA uses to collect high-quality environmental data for the agency’s science, products and services. The program will be housed at multiple locations. The NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Florida, will continue to support the agency’s unmanned aircraft activities. A new facility being built by the Mississippi State Port Authority in partnership with the University of Southern Mississippi in Gulfport, Mississippi, will support unmanned maritime systems.
NOAA is also exploring the use of artificial intelligence in combination with UxS to collect and analyze large volumes of scientific data. NOAA recently released the NOAA Artificial Intelligence Strategy in conjunction with the Unmanned Systems Strategy. Retired Navy Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., Deputy NOAA Administrator, has announced that the NOAA Artificial Intelligence Center will be housed within NCEI.