The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Verizon Frontline have signed a three-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to explore new strategies to rapidly deploy uncrewed aircraft systems to collect and distribute imagery of damage resulting from severe storms such as tornadoes or hurricanes.

As part of this partnership, the Verizon Frontline Crisis Response Team will provide the uncrewed aircraft system platform, sensor, and personnel resources needed to rapidly respond and collect aerial imagery of storm-damaged areas of interest identified by NOAA.

The goal is to enhance the ability of NOAA’s National Weather Service offices to quickly conduct post-storm damage assessments, while also providing data for research conducted by the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.

This data will be used to help researchers better understand tornado behavior and impacts with a goal of improving warnings.

“This collaboration has the potential to demonstrate how partnerships with Verizon and other organizations to gather drone imagery can significantly improve the services provided by the NWS to the public and partners when disaster strikes,” said Tim Oram, NWS Southern Region Headquarters Meteorological Services Branch Chief.

The CRADA specifically applies to the NWS Southern Region and NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

“This partnership will help pioneer new strategies aimed at gathering and disseminating crucial imagery, leveraging our collective expertise to enhance response efforts to severe storms and mitigate their impact on communities across the U.S.," said Michael Adams, associate vice president for federal civilian services at Verizon.

Typically after a storm, National Weather Service personnel perform damage surveys and gather data to assign tornado ratings, document a storm’s path, and improve the accuracy of future tornado forecasts. Uncrewed aircraft systems provide an advantage because they can more efficiently gather critical information in remote, hard-to-reach areas where it is difficult for people to travel. In the past, NOAA has used uncrewed systems for some storm damage assessment. This new partnership is designed to supplement existing resources and gather more information more quickly.

“After a crisis, the first imagery that any emergency management agency or similar public safety agency gets is typically satellite data and the resolution isn’t ideal,” said Chris Sanders of the Verizon Frontline Crisis Response Team. “What we’re aiming to do through our partnership with NOAA is develop ways to get these agencies high-resolution imagery much faster than they can get it today by using our robust network and rapid-mapping capabilities.”

Verizon Frontline is the advanced network and technology built for first responders – developed over three decades of partnership with public safety officials and agencies on the front lines – to meet their unique and evolving needs.