SBIR Phase II: A Device for Measuring Electric Field Strength from Dropsondes and Radiosondes

Period of Performance: 01/01/2003 - 12/31/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

SPEC Incorporated
3022 Sterling Circle Suite 200
Boulder, CO 80301
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


This SBIR Phase II research project will provide research-aircraft and weather-balloon flight tests a new, novel device for measuring the electric field strength of thunderstorms and hurricanes. Electric field strength is a significant factor in the development of precipitation and lightning, and may even play a role in influencing the intensity of precipitation from thunderstorms. Research aircraft flights that typically measure electric field strength in thunderstorms and hurricanes are difficult and potentially dangerous because of the hazardous conditions, such as lightning, hail and turbulence. However, the new device, called an electric field module, can be contained in a device called a dropsonde and dropped through thunderstorms from aircraft flying above the storm, or attached to weather balloons called radiosondes that are released from the ground. ince over 7,000 dropsondes and 400,000 weather balloons are routinely deployed each year, adding electric field measures to these devices represents a substantial commercial market. Measurements using the new E-field modules deployed by the SPEC Learjet research aircraft will be unique and open a new realm for analyzing the structure of electric fields in storms. A more realizable goal is improved aviation safety, by virtue of a better understanding of lightning discharges from clouds associated with thunderstorms, particularly anvil clouds, where commercial aircraft are often struck by lightning.