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CASA Innovation Manager Interviewed by Forbes

Apoorva Bajaj

Apoorva Bajaj

Apoorva Bajaj, a senior research fellow and innovation manager with the Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA), was interviewed for a March 22 article in Forbes magazine, which was covering a startup company that manufactures solar-powered sensors to collect data on hyperlocal weather conditions. On behalf of CASA, Bajaj has been working with the new company to help verify the accuracy of the weather data it was gathering.

The Forbes article focused on a Madison, Wisconsin, weather startup, Understory, which manufactures weather sensors that can be placed in fields to collect local data on hail, wind, precipitation, and temperature. According to Understory CEO and founder Alex Kubicek, the company validates the data from its sensors in a number of ways, including working with CASA.

As the Forbes article reported, "The sensor is indeed pretty unique for what it does for hail measurement, which is pretty powerful," said Bajaj, who has been working with Understory's instruments in that company's Dallas-Fort Worth deployment. "Now that they’ve combined it with wind and other observations it’s become more valuable.” Bajaj also noted that the Understory sensors are solar powered and do not rely on a wired network connection, making them easy to install and operate.

According to Bajaj, around 150 Understory weather sensors have been installed across the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex, co-located with CASA’s network of seven dual-pol, X-band weather radars. This collaboration allows researchers to compare the hail and wind measurements made by Understory's sensors with those derived from CASA radar observations. As Bajaj said, "We've seen a pretty good correlation." In the spring, CASA will be surveying emergency managers using a mobile app to validate the sensor measurements against known conditions on the ground.

CASA has received a $1 million innovation grant from the National Science Foundation to develop CityWarn™, a smart, hyperlocal, context-aware hazard warning system.

Brenda Philips, CASA’s co-director and principal investigator said that “Hazard warning systems are service systems that aim to minimize deaths, injuries, property loss, infrastructure destruction, and service or business disruption. They include the sensors, forecasts, networking and communications, public safety personnel and decision-makers, warning information, and those who receive and respond to the warnings.”

CityWarn™ addresses important issues for hazard notification service systems such as the coordination and sharing of information between public safety agencies, private sector firms, and the general public. It also makes sense of multiple sources of data such as fine-scale meteorological observations and traffic data, humans reporting weather on social media and smart phones, and a trend toward hyperlocal, user-selected information. By developing a common platform for use by industry and public sector players, CASA hopes to break down “silos” between existing warning systems and increase inter-agency coordination and improve response time and quality.

CASA is a multi-sector partnership among academia, industry, and government dedicated to engineering revolutionary weather-sensing networks. These innovative networks will save lives and property by detecting the region of the lower atmosphere currently below conventional radar range — mapping storms, winds, rain, and the flow of airborne hazards. CASA radars can also detect small drones that might be creating flying hazards near airports. (April 2018)