SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WWLP) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also known as NOAA, is now using drones to take high-resolution images in hard-to-reach areas to better understand, and better predict severe weather events.

Recently, they tested them out for flooding, and Derechos: a widespread, long-lived strong wind storm associated with rapidly-moving showers and thunderstorms. The drone imagery can not only give information on how severely an area is being flooded, but they can use the data to improve flood forecasting by incorporating it into their forecast models. 

Drones were a big help in the midwest derecho that hit this past August, a type of wind storm we’ve seen locally before. Western Massachusetts had extensive wind damage from a derecho that hit this past October.

In the midwest, the drone helped meteorologists to better estimate the storm intensity, and identify the tracks of multiple tornadoes, something that can be tricky to spot from the ground.

Documenting these wind events can help scientists better understand the type of damage these can cause, and better communicate risks to people in the path of a storm.