Defence software helps sailing team predict weather patterns

Predictive modelling software used to develop defence systems is being employed to help yachtsmen gain a competitive edge in competitions.

Developed by BAE Systems for Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and other military programmes, the software is now being used by Skandia Team GBR to accurately forecast detailed weather patterns up to six to eight hours ahead of racing.

The breakthrough is part of a five-year, £1.5m technology partnership between BAE Systems and UK Sport, the sports agency helping athletes to prepare for competitions by giving them access to leading technologies and thinking.

According to BAE Systems, the British sailing team has, for the first time, the means to make assessments of local weather patterns. This will help the team to plan its fastest and most competitive route during major sailing competitions at Weymouth Bay, which, along with Portland Harbour, will host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sailing competitions.

Dubbed Project DRAKE, the innovation applies predictive mathematical modelling used currently in autonomous technologies to give touch-button access to data such as wind speed and wind direction.

‘A fundamental part of sailing is all about understanding the weather,’ said Peter Bentley, technical projects manager of Skandia Team GBR. ‘From the morning of departure, athletes are not allowed to have contact with the team on land and thus medals will be won or lost based on the ability of our athletes to understand weather patterns on competition day.’