MAGDA Project

The Meteodrone Launch in France

Akemi Narindal Aoki - Digital Marketing Manager
Dr. Akemi Narindal-Aoki
Sr. Content Marketing Manager

Funded by the European Union under the Horizon Europe initiative, the MAGDA Project aims to develop improved weather forecasts and a hydrological model for agriculture. In this article, we explain how Meteomatics' Meteodrones are revolutionizing atmospheric sensing and their role within the MAGDA Project.

Meteomatics Joins the MAGDA Consortium

Throughout history, agricultural societies have been subject to the whims of weather. Today, technology significantly supports farmers, helping secure the global food supply chain.

Current climate change is bringing new challenges to farmers, and many initiatives have emerged aiming to help the agriculture industry adapt and keep thriving. The MAGDA Project, which we're proud to be part of, is one of them.

Members of the MAGDA consortium
Members of the MAGDA consortium

Horizon Europe Programme

Climate change is increasing extreme weather phenomena across Europe, such as heavy rainfall, heatwaves, cold spells, and conditions conducive to agricultural pests and diseases.

To address these challenges, the European Union is investing in research initiatives aimed at fostering innovation and enhancing societal resilience in the face of a shifting climate. One such initiative is Horizon Europe, spanning from 2021 to 2027 (succeeding Horizon 2020).

In the framework of Horizon Europe, the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) opened a call for proposals around EGNSS and Copernicus applications fostering the European Green deal.

In 2020, the MAGDA project — short for Meteorological Assimilation From Galileo and Drones for Agriculture — started to take form, with consortium members preparing to submit a proposal. While searching for a weather drone provider, the MAGDA coordinator reached out to us, initiating our involvement in the project. Following the successful acquisition of funding, the MAGDA Project officially kicked off in 2022.

An agreement between the EU and the Swiss government facilitated Meteomatics' participation in the program as an associated partner, with funding channeled directly from the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research, and Innovation (SERI).

The MAGDA Project

The MAGDA Project aims to create a comprehensive toolchain for monitoring atmospheric conditions, weather forecasts, and advisories related to severe weather, irrigation, and crop management.

To achieve this, the project is deploying new dedicated sensor networks, including GNSS sensors, weather sensors, and Meteodrones, which are being strategically positioned near large farms and cultivated areas in France, Italy and Romania to provide high-resolution data both spatially and temporally.

Additionally, MAGDA is developing an assimilation system to integrate this data into a numerical weather prediction model. This integration is expected to improve the accuracy of short-range (1-2 days ahead) and very short-range (less than 1 day ahead) weather forecasts, enabling:

  • Better predictions of severe weather events such as rainfall, snow, hail, wind, and heat and cold waves.
  • Enhanced forecasts for weather-driven agricultural pests and diseases.
  • A hydrological model for evaluating irrigation performance and water usage.
Eugenio realini
Eugenio Realini
CEO of GReD, MAGDA project coordinator
We aim to create an effective toolchain with easy-to-use information so farmers can operate their fields in a more efficient way.

Launch in Burgundy, France: Ensuring Optimal Grape Harvests

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On March 5th, 2024, the first instruments were installed among the Burgundy vineyards, specifically in the town of Chassagne-Montrachet. The metIS-Hub and GeoGuard GNSS sensor instruments from Cap2020 and GReD were installed in the vineyards of Maison Louis Jadot, while Meteomatics’ Meteodrone system was set up in the backyard of Domaine Vincent & Sophie Morey.

This initiative will aid winemakers in safeguarding their vines against adverse weather conditions such as frost, hail, and heatwaves. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure optimal harvests and sustained production of exceptional Burgundy wine, despite the escalating weather challenges due to climate change. Improved weather forecasts would enable winemakers to anticipate necessary measures, like preemptively installing candles to warm the atmosphere in the event of approaching cold or frost.

Meteodrone Operations

In the presence of winemakers, MAGDA Project partners, members of the French press, and the local mayor, Meteomatics’ pilot comfortably conducted operations from the company’s headquarters in Switzerland, approximately 500 km away. He remotely controlled the Meteodrone from launch to touchdown, successfully elevating it to approximately 3,000 meters above ground level.

Our Meteodrone system consists of a Meteodrone and a Meteobase, serving as the ground station for remote Meteodrone operations. The Meteodrone is scheduled to fly up to four times daily for six months, concluding post-harvests.

During these flights, the Meteodrone collects weather data on temperature and humidity within a radius of 30 to 50 kilometers from its position. This data is then transmitted to the CIMA Research Foundation, where it’s integrated into a model aimed at generating more precise forecasts for the region.

Capable of operating in severe weather conditions, including temperatures as low as -45°C, rainfall, and wind speeds reaching up to 90 km/h, Meteodrones efficiently fill the existing gap in weather data collection from the mid and lower atmosphere.

Remote Flight Control From Switzerland

The Meteobase serves as a central operational hub for the Meteodrone, providing comprehensive infrastructure for its operation. Equipped with a central computer overseeing operations control, maintenance, and meteorological data recording, the Meteobase also includes a launch and landing platform with a charging station, radio link, and ground station. An internal air control system maintains ideal conditions for the Meteodrone, its electronics, and batteries. Designed to withstand a large range of weather conditions, the Meteobase is watertight, snow proof, and features efficient rainwater drainage.

Andrea gatti
Andrea Gatti
Software Developer
The Meteodrones will totally change the future. The fact that they can fly straight on a vertical line is their main advantage.

Flight Authorizations

Meteomatics secured the first flight authorization from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) in Switzerland, based on European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations. Leveraging this authorization, Meteomatics can obtain approvals for Meteodrone operations in most European countries. Through collaboration with national flight authorities, Meteomatics can secure flight approvals for their Meteodrones in all EASA member states.

For operations in France under the MAGDA framework, Meteomatics obtained flight approval from French authorities to fly up to 3500 meters above mean sea level during day and night, including beyond visual line of sight. These flights are conducted in restricted airspace at a safe distance from urban areas.

Coming Up Next

In Italy and Romania, the focus shifts away from grapes for winemaking towards crops such as fruits (apples, cherries, peaches, and plums), nuts (almonds and hazelnuts), and grains (wheat, barley, corn, sunflower and soybean). Operations with GNSS and weather stations started last year. Meteomatics has recently initiated Meteodrone flights in Italy and is currently preparing for launch in Romania.

Drone magda france

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Lukas Hammerschmidt – Chief Drone Officer
Dr. Lukas Hammerschmidt
Chief Drone Officer

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