March 06, 2018

Drone Weather Cams: The New Frontier

Weather cams are extraordinarily useful tools for monitoring the changing skies, and I have shown their images and video many times on this blog.

But nearly all of them are earthbound and fixed, showing one section of the sky.  They also have blockage problems from houses, trees, and other objects.

We need a weather cam that avoids all these problems.    The closest thing we have right now is the SpaceNeedle  pano cam, which is wonderful (see below).  But what about other locations?

Well, the weather cam master of the Northwest, Greg Johnson of Skunk Bay Weather, has come up with a solution:  a weather cam drone.  And he has put this cutting edge tool to the test with spectacular results...let me show you.

Here is the video from a flight this morning (Tuesday).  Just glorious, with fog over the Hood Canal pushing over the northern Kitsap Peninsula.  Snow-covered Olympics, Mt. Rainier, Puget is all there.   Like a high definition version?  Check this out.

How about a close up of cold, dense foggy air running down a coastal slope and heading out over the Sound?

Want more?  I don't blame you.  Here is one on a cloudy day with showers.

Or how about a day with low-level snow?

This is cutting edge stuff.... I suggested to Greg that he run a thin power cord up to the drone and see how long it can stay aloft.  Or add some weather sensors, to get a vertical temperature/humidity sounding.  Drones clearly have value for meteorologists--perhaps we can convince Amazon to include weather sensors and cams on their delivery drones.  But until that time Greg Johnson is giving us a fascinating view from northern Kitsap.


The Northwest Weather Workshop, the largest gathering of the NW Weather Community, will take place on April 27-28th at the NOAA facility in Seattle.   This year the theme of the Friday session will be on Northwest wildfires, but sessions will include all aspects of NW meteorology.  More information, including registration sign-up, is found at the website noted below. If you would like to give a presentation, please supply an abstract and title to me by March 25th.  The gathering is open to anyone interested in the weather of the region..


  1. Nice but.. drones are serious safety hazards to aircraft! If (when?) there is a mid-air and people are killed, the drone party will be over.

  2. One would wonder if you could program a drone with enough accuracy to repeatedly fly up and take images to piece together a stellar time lapse? You have to love Skunk Bay and the great stuff he continues to create.

  3. How about a dirigible-based weather drone? It wouldn't have to be fast, it seems like you could extend the battery life and stay up quite a bit.

    I don't know from drones but if you're going to have a drone up there keeping an eye on the weather, why not a blimp?

  4. I did not like drones when they first came out. When I saw how they could be used responsibly and respectfully, I realized their potential. For the record, I will never take my drone above the maximum legal altitude of 400 feet. Minimum altitude for planes is 500 feet, so there is a nice buffer there. I will never fly my drone where it is out of my view. I have it in sight at all times. I also only fly my drone directly above my home where I have a lot of space. I am very respectful of my neighbors and will never fly it directly over their homes and invade their privacy.... If you notice, the only homes in the images are quite a distance away. I like these creative ideas about how to really utilize this technology. I think we have just scratched the surface for their potential.

  5. Pretty but the videos omit the incestial buzz of the drone. I like the lighter than air suggestion above.

  6. About @BigDave's drone timelapse question....yes it's absolutely possible. Example here (I only wish I was surrounded by the epic scenery of the sound!):

  7. Most drone operators in this area are breaking the law. You cannot operate within 5 miles of any airport, that includes not only the likes of SeaTac, but any GA facility, including the seaplane bases In Kenmore and Lake Union. So forget most of the immediate Seattle area... BTW, there is no 500 foot minimum altitude for manned aircraft, just restriction on operating within 500 feet of persons or property except when taking off or landing. I'm guessing here, but I suspect you would also be breaking the law by flying close to (I recall it's 500 feet) of any cloud, since operating a manned aircraft that close to cloud (e.g. fog) requires IFR operation. Operating in North Kitsap I would also watch out for the Chinook MOAs (military operating areas) which extends over part of Skunk Bay and the PROHIBITED area P-51 over the Bangor sub base. I capitalized that because of just how serious a violation of that area is...

  8. DM - some good points, however operation of a manned aircraft "within 500 of a cloud" does not necessarily constitute instrument operations. There is more to it than that..


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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