November 3, 2022 | Innovation, Aviation

Weather Decisions with Precision

An image of STARS helicopter C-FLCI on the ground in the foreground with lightning striking a building in the background

“If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes,” is a familiar refrain across Western Canada.

Dealing with ever-changing weather is a reality for everyone across the Prairies, including STARS flight crews, which is why we have launched a project to help mitigate the impact on our patients.

Safety is a core value at STARS, which is why the first thing pilots do before accepting a mission is to check the weather forecast. Even advanced aircraft such as our Airbus H145 have limitations to ensure safe operation in inclement weather and, although rare, there are occasions when a mission could be declined due to forecasted conditions. STARS frequently operates in rural and remote areas, and forecasts for those areas are sometimes generated from data collected at weather stations more than 100 km away.

The aviation team knew that the accuracy of weather data in some areas could be improved and began looking for an innovative solution. The result is a compact and easily transportable weather station currently undergoing trials at the STARS base in Winnipeg.

“Data is a key component of aviation, and this pilot project is an excellent opportunity for us to identify and close the data gap when it comes to weather forecasting,” said Kenny Doleac, chief strategy and development officer and a former United States Air Force helicopter pilot.

“Approximately half of the missions we decline are due to weather, but there may be an opportunity for us to accept some of those missions with more accurate weather data at our disposal.”

The pilot project features weather stations developed by Intellisense Systems, Inc., a leading provider of advanced sensing and display solutions. The stations measure several parameters including temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, precipitation and visibility. Once the initial trial phase at the Winnipeg base is successfully completed, additional weather stations will be deployed for further evaluation in rural Manitoba.

“This pilot project is another example of STARS’ commitment to innovation,” added Doleac. “Harnessing this emerging technology to provide more accurate weather data for our flight crews is a smart investment in innovation and may also enable us to fly even more life-saving missions.”

An image of a STARS weather station in Manitboa

A remote weather station in Manitoba.

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