New Director To Lead NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program

October 1, 2008

An internationally recognized atmospheric scientist and a descendant of the first elected chief of the Cherokee Nation will lead NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program, the agency announced recently. The fledgling UAS program received $3 million in direct support for fiscal year 2008 and is expected to grow as the agency experiments with its use of unmanned aircraft for climate and weather research, ecosystem assessments, improving forecasts, and other applications.

Robbie Hood

Robbie Hood, UAS Program Director

“Unmanned aircraft opens up enormous possibilities for monitoring our planet on missions too long or grueling for humans to fly and in areas where satellite information is absent or lacking detail,” said new UAS director Robbie Hood. “These aircraft could help us gain new understanding of hurricanes and other severe weather, global climate change, risks to endangered species, and many other areas of concern.”

Growing up in Neosho, Mo., and Picayune, Miss., Hood developed an early interest in weather by witnessing the devastating effects of Hurricane Camille in Mississippi in 1969 and the 1974 Neosho tornado. Her childhood fascination turned into a successful research career studying precipitation, thunderstorms, and hurricanes using remote sensing technology aboard satellites and aircraft.

Hood led the Storm Intensity Monitoring Group at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and participated in field programs in Australia, Brazil, the Marshall Islands, Alaska, Costa Rica, and the coastal United States. She served as mission scientist on four NASA field experiments studying hurricane development and intensity change. She has also served on a number of multi-agency committees and co-chaired the Joint Action Group for Tropical Cyclone Research, sponsored by the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology.

Hood is a direct descendant of John Ross, the first elected chief of the Cherokee Nation who held the office for nearly 40 years. Ross is famous for leading the Cherokees on the “Trail of Tears”—their forced relocation from the southeastern United States to present-day Oklahoma in 1838–1839. Coincidentally, one route of the Trail of Tears passes near Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where Hood worked for over two decades until moving to Boulder for the NOAA position.

Hood received a Bachelor of Science in atmospheric science from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a Master of Science in physical meteorology from Florida State University, Tallahassee.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

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