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Taiwan launches unmanned aircraft for typhoon research

Taipei, Jan. 11 (CNA) The Taiwan Typhoon and Flood Research Institute (TTFRI) under the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) unveiled for the first time Wednesday its Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) to be used as part of the institute's typhoon research program later this year.

The drone is one of six ordered from Australia in 2015 at a price tag of NT$2.6 million (US$81,500) to NT$4 million, depending on engine variants of single or twin cam cylinders. With a maximum flying time of 10-18 hours, the drones are equipped with specialized sensors to detect temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and direction. The setup, modeled around the demands of the TTFRI, will enable researchers to better track and analyze typhoon activity around Taiwan. Furthermore, the system has been demonstrated with a variety of application-specific payloads, including electro-optic/infrared, high-definition survey, mapping and meteorology equipment. "The drone had a trial run on Typhoon Nepartak last year, and the information it collected has proven to be invaluable to our team," TTFRI assistant technician Chung Chi-jun said during a smart tech expo held at the National Taiwan University Hospital International Convention Center. According to Chung, Australia has been working on the application of unmanned aircraft for meteorology use for several decades, but Taiwan is the first country to adopt the craft specifically for typhoon research. "We carried out our first demo research with an unmanned aircraft in 2005, but the project was later scrapped because of stricter air traffic controls imposed in the aftermath of global terrorism," he said. Wednesday's unveiling marks the first official launch of the TTFRI's plan to adopt the drones for typhoon research. "The only problem lies in our restricted airspace," he said, adding that the institution is currently in talks with Japan and the Philippines to open their skies for the benefit of typhoon research.

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