HiDRON Glider Soars to Near Space to Test Turbulence Detection Tech

It's no secret that bad weather can wreak havoc on air travel. To test new turbulence detection instruments that could help drones, low-Earth orbit spacecraft, and aviation overall, Earth Observation service provider Stratodynamics recently launched its HiDRON stratospheric glider from a high-altitude balloon.
HiDRON stratospheric glider seen over New Mexico on June 6th 4 photos
Photo: Stratodynamics, Inc.
HiDRON stratospheric glider was launched from Spaceport America, New MexicoHiDRON stratospheric glider was launched from Spaceport America, New MexicoHiDRON stratospheric glider was launched from Spaceport America, New Mexico
In a series of flights from June 1st through 6th, the glider took off from Spaceport America in New Mexico and carried for the first time technology supported by NASA's Flight Opportunities program. One of the reasons the agency picked Stratodynamics as the flying provider for turbulence detection instrument testing was that the glider can reach higher altitudes than a balloon alone.

HiDRON was designed to be launched from a sounding balloon at near-space altitude, allowing for controlled descent of technology payloads aboard. According to NASA, the tested instruments could benefit not only drones and autonomous aerial vehicles to identify turbulence but also commercial airplanes.

The glider allowed its onboard instruments to record wind velocity, direction, magnitude, and low-frequency sound waves in a setting where balloon-borne wind tools cannot work.

"The sensitivity of the sensor actually increases with increasing velocity. So, it's not something you could get to work on a conventional balloon because the airflow wouldn't be fast enough," explained Sean Bailey, principal investigator for the innovation at the University of Kentucky.

On the first two flights, HiDRON was released at an altitude of 15.5 miles (25 km) and at 19 miles (30 km) on the last flight, with successful gliding at 17 miles (28 km). The glider reached a top speed of more than 300 mph (483 kph), letting the instruments pick up subtle changes caused by turbulent fluctuations.

Throughout each trip, the wind probe and sensor remained fully functional. After completing the flights, the next step for researchers will be to examine the collected data over the next three months in order to evaluate the technology's performance.
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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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