Researchers at the University of Virginia are testing UAVs as potential replacements for weather balloons which could simplify some types of weather and climate measurements. A recent UVA news release describes the use of a hexcopter "drone" that rises up to 30 meters into the boundary layer of the atmosphere while taking precise sensor readings. From the news release:
It will measure humidity and temperature, and possibly one day wind speed and direction. Currently, we usually have to take these measurements with a helium balloon, and conditions can be difficult. The copter is a way to take such measurements more continuously and easily.
This idea sounds similar in principal to the ocean float robots, which move between the ocean surface and depths measuring conditions and report the sensor data back to researchers. Right now this UAV is being used primarily as a proof-of-concept model in the classroom at University of Virginia's Department of Environmental Sciences. If the use of UAVs for weather measurements become widespread it could lead to another very accurate source for global climate data. For more, read on to see a video of weather drone in action.