Tag Archives: Kamran Mohseni

Will tiny drones cure Floridians’ cynicism toward hurricanes?

6 Jun
Autonomous flying drones are the research of Kamran Mohseni and graduate researchers with the Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida. (Photo by: Eric Zamora/University of Florida

Autonomous flying drones are the research of Kamran Mohseni and graduate researchers with the Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida. (Photo by: Eric Zamora/University of Florida

Most residents of Florida–a state constantly pummeled by tropical storms and hurricanes—have become overly cynical of the often hyped-up weather news warning that the latest tropical action in the Gulf of Mexico or off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean could be deadly.

In fact, if you grew up here or anywhere along a coast where  heavy rain and wind between June and November is the norm, you probably remember getting excited for hurricanes.

No school! Hurricane party! Maybe we get to stay in a hotel out of town! Yippee!

This is because the reports are, more often than not, wrong and exaggerated. To us, a hurricane meant a couple days’ vacation, and sleeping in our bathing suits because our AC was out.

In fact, I was one of those children—until one turning point—Hurricane Ivan.

I was a freshman in high school and the weather reports ranted on about stocking up on food and water, boarding windows and evacuating if necessary. I waved goodbye to my friends when we were sent home from school.

See y’all in a couple of days!

I went home to my father, a New Orleans native who survived the terrible storms Betsy and Camille, mocking the news and calling the storm “Tropical Depression Ivan.” We did not evacuate, and I still remember that night vividly.

The first thing to fall was the living room ceiling fan. It was pitch black outside, but we could still hear it fall. The rain came pouring in as bits of the ceiling started caving in. Before long we were wading in three feet of water from room to room trying to avoid the ceiling bits. Our house was ruined. The news reports were right for once.  Two years later, the rest of my family lost their homes in Katrina.

So, should we trust the news? Why is hurricane intensity, for the most part, so inaccurate?

Autonomous flying drones are the research of Kamran Mohseni and graduate researchers with the Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Univeristy of Florida. (Photo by: Eric Zamora/University of Florida)

Autonomous flying drones are the research of Kamran Mohseni and graduate researchers with the Institute for Networked Autonomous Systems in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Univeristy of Florida. (Photo by: Eric Zamora/University of Florida)

Kamran Mohseni, the W.P. Bushnell Endowed Professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Florida, knows why the intensity is often miscalculated and believe he’s come up with a way to solve the problem.

He said the reason for the wrong predictions in intensity and trajectory is due to the inability to get measurements at the most violent area of a hurricane—the interface between the ocean and the storm. The area is too chaotic to send in a manned airplane, and sensors that are randomly dropped from aircraft above the storm may get tossed around, and therefore do not always measure what Mohseni calls “the hot spot.”

“The reason that these are not predicted very well is because they simply just guess what that boundary position is,” Mohseni said. Continue reading