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Unmanned Aircraft System Launched from NOAA Ship

May 15, 2013
NOAA Ship Nancy Foster and Puma UAS launch

A Puma Unmanned Aircraft is launched off NOAA ship Nancy Foster. It is hoped that the Puma will be used to monitor national marine sanctuaries in the future.

NOAA recently operated and recovered a Puma Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) aboard the NOAA ship Nancy Foster. This was the first NOAA operated UAS from a white hull NOAA ship.


Image of the 41-foot catamaran R/V Joe Ferguson from the Puma Unmanned Aircraft System.

In this mission, a NOAA team developed Standard Operating Procedures for safe, efficient, and effective operations; tested the procedures to ensure they were appropriate; conducted flights to locate, identify, and track targets (such as a life-sized mock sea turtle); and introduced the system to potential future users. A total of five flights were conducted. In the future, NOAA researchers hope to use the Puma to detect marine debris, improve emergency response, and enhance research and enforcement operations within national marine sanctuaries.

Since the NOAA Puma is operated by remote pilots, it is uniquely suited to collect data in dangerous or remote areas of the ocean. This data may be used in a variety of applications ultimately leading to improved climate and weather predictions and management of marine resources. 


This mission was conducted by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, and the crew of the NOAA ship Nancy Foster. The NOAA UAS Program was established to explore the potential of UAS to enhance NOAA's mission through efficient and cost-effective research.  NOAA UAS demonstration projects have been ongoing since 2009.