Weatherbird software maintained at Robins

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
The next time you're watching the weather and get reports on the latest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, know the information is supported by local experts.

The Aerial Reconnaissance Weather Officer, also known as Weatherbird software, is maintained by a team here. The team also supports Ground Based Station software at the National Hurricane Center, in Miami, Fla., and Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.

ARWO mission software is used on WC-130J "Hurricane Hunters," operated by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Keesler. ARWO is one of many software and communication lines used aboard the aircraft, which collects data used to provide information such as storm intensity.

The GBS software used on the aircraft allows the user to view what the ARWO sees while in the air collecting data.

The GBS software used on the aircraft allows the user to view what the ARWO sees while in the air collecting data. The system can handle data from and track up to five aircraft.

The software was transferred to Robins in April 2011; it was formerly maintained by Lockheed Martin. The team from the 580th Software Maintenance Squadron includes Khristine Vullo, project software manager; Jim Belcher, Alex Chen and Michael Vining, software developers; Aimee Hunt, configuration manager; and Stephen Lee, test lead engineer.

"It feels great to be part of a project that is vital to saving lives and property," Vullo said.

Lee admitted he gets a kick out of watching Hurricane Hunter specials on television, realizing how amazing and important the technology is. He explained that being able to see graphs and trends through the software allows experts to predict and interpret data in multiple ways.

His primary responsibility is to ensure that the software works as expected; in particular, it does not adversely affect other functions.

The team performs software modifications as needed, maintains and implements automated test scripts, and performs live testing off-site in coordination with the NHC and Keesler, all while keeping up with the latest software development tools in the field.

One example of what the team does includes implementing and maintaining changes to the software's message structure as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Data collected by WC-130J equipment is processed by the software into weather messages, which includes vortex (hurricane eye), reconnaissance, high density observation and dropsonde buoy observations.

As a plane is flying within a tropical storm or hurricane, the software is monitoring and capturing weather-related data, which is displayed on a screen numerically and graphically. The aircraft then transmits this data to ground-based stations, and NOAA makes the data available online for everyone, including forecasters and meteorologists at the NHC.

Another example of the software is performing checks on a course-correction indicator. Maintaining and testing this feature allows the ARWO to correctly convey to the pilot where he should fly to find the center of a storm.

Being a part of such an important mission is not lost on the team, which is currently working to build a local software integration lab for development and testing purposes.

"We are honored and privileged to be sustaining software that has tremendous success in predicting tropical storms and hurricanes," Vullo said.