A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding METARS (Aviation Routine Weather Report)

One of the most important things for a professional drone pilot to be aware of when embarking on a drone flight mission is the weather. So, here’s an article about METAR, an aviation routine weather report, just for you!

What is the Meteorological Terminal Air Report?

A METAR (Meteorological Terminal Air Report) is a routine aviation weather report that details the latest meteorological conditions at an airport.

METARs are weather reports that are based on real weather conditions at an airport. METARs are written in a common format that can be read all around the world. Although the format of North American and International METARs differs slightly, the format is essentially the same, with differing units of measurement.

What is the purpose of METAR?

METAR is a weather information reporting format. A METAR weather report is primarily utilized by pilots and meteorologists who use aggregated METAR data to help forecast weather. Raw METAR is the most widely used format for transmitting observational weather data around the world.

What is the benefit of METAR?

When the drone is ready for takeoff, you’ll need to use metar. Drone pilots are in charge of making sure the weather is suitable for flying. A minimum weather visibility of three miles from your control station has been imposed by the FAA. A METAR report can give you current weather information, such as gloomy, foggy, or wet conditions.

How to Read Metar

So, here’s the explanation of how to read Metar..please take a look at this picture below!

How to Read a METAR

You can see in the picture, there is a lot of METAR information provided by the METAR Report. See the details below!

  • Type of Report, METAR reports are classified into two types. The first is the routine METAR report, which is sent out every hour. The second is a SPECI, which can be issued at any time to update the METAR for rapidly changing weather conditions, aircraft mishaps, or other critical information. So it’ll either say METAR or SPECI here.
  • Station identifier—a four-letter code set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). A unique three-letter identifier is preceded by the letter “K” in the 48 contiguous states. Gregg County Airport in Longview, Texas, for example, is denoted by the letters “KGGG,” with K denoting the country and GGG denoting the airport. The first two letters of the four-letter ICAO identifier indicate the region, country, or state in other parts of the world, including Alaska and Hawaii. Alaska identifiers always start with the letters “PA,” while Hawaii identifiers always start with the letters “PH.”
  • The date and time of the report are depicted in a six-digit group (161753Z). The first two digits are the date, which is the 16th of the month, and the last four digits are the METAR time, which is always given in coordinated universal time (UTC), also known as Zulu time. A “Z” is appended to the end of the time to indicate that it is in Zulu time (UTC) rather than local time.
  • Modifier—indicates that the METAR was generated automatically or that the report was corrected. If the notation “AUTO” appears in the METAR, the report was generated automatically. In the remarks section, it also mentions “AO1” or “AO2” to indicate the type of precipitation sensors used at the automated station. When the modifier “COR” is used, it refers to a corrected report that was sent out to replace an earlier report that had an error.
  • Wind—reported with five numbers (14021), unless the speed exceeds 99 knots, in which case it is reported with six numbers. The first three numbers indicate the wind’s direction to the nearest ten degrees in relation to TRUE North. If the wind is blowing in a different direction, the letters “VRB” will appear after the numbers. The last two digits indicate the wind speed in knots, unless the wind speed is greater than 99 knots, in which case three digits are used. If the winds are gusting, the letter “G” appears after the wind speed numbers, and the numbers immediately following G indicate the highest expected wind gusts.
  • Visibility—the current visibility (3/4 SM) is reported in statute miles, which are denoted by the letters “SM.” It is reported in miles as well as fractions of miles. In this case, 34 miles.
  • The weather section is divided into three sections. The first qualifier is an intensity qualifier. Light (-), moderate (), or heavy (+) intensity levels are available. Because we see a + symbol, we know it’s heavy. Then, if there is any kind of weather phenomenon in the immediate vicinity of the airport, it will be displayed. In this example, TS denotes a thunderstorm, and RA denotes rain. If you see the letter “VC” in this section, it means that a specific weather phenomenon is within five to ten miles of the airport. Finally, the descriptors, which are used to describe different types of precipitation and obscurations, make up the third part of this weather section.
  • Sky condition— In this first section, we see the height of the cloud base, which is given as a three-digit number hundreds of feet above ground level (AGL). BKN is an abbreviation for broken clouds, and “008” is an abbreviation for 800 feet. As a result, the cloud base is 800 feet above ground. That’s one thing that’s going on. Then there’s OVC, which stands for overcast, and “012,” which stands for 1,200 feet. At 1,200 feet AGL, we have overcast clouds. And we’re seeing the same kind of cloud here. CB is an abbreviation for cumulonimbus clouds, and TCU is an abbreviation for towering cumulus clouds.
  • Temperature and dew point are always given in whole degrees Celsius (°C) and separated by a forward slash (/). Temperatures less than 0°C are denoted by the letter “M,” which stands for “minus.”
  • Altimeter setting—A2970 denotes that a manned aircraft pilot using an altimeter would set the altimeter pressure to 29.70 Hg (inches of mercury).
  • Remarks—the remarks section is always preceded by the letters “RMK.” This section of the METAR may or may not include comments. Wind data, variable visibility, beginning and ending times of specific phenomena, pressure information, and any other information deemed necessary may be included in this section. In the preceding example, PRESFR stands for “rapidly falling pressure.” Another example of a comment about a weather phenomenon that does not fit into any other category is: OCNL LTGICCG. This translates to lightning strikes in the clouds and from the clouds to the ground. The remarks section is also used by automated stations to indicate that the equipment requires maintenance.

The Metar’s Connection with Drone Industry 

One of the most important things for a professional drone pilot to be aware of when embarking on a drone flight mission is the weather. Just as you would check the weather forecast before leaving the house, you should check the current weather conditions before launching your drone. These weather reports are known as METARs in the aviation industry. Understanding METARs is such an important part of being a commercial drone pilot that it has been included in the scope of the Part 107 knowledge test.

A METAR report appears to be written in a foreign language at first sight. It is, however, a language that commercial drone pilots must learn. Passing the Part 107 knowledge test requires a thorough understanding of METAR reports. We can see how this skill can deteriorate over time without any practice.

The best way to improve this skill is to simply read METAR reports on a regular basis. Make it a habit to check for METAR reports before embarking on a drone trip. Even if you don’t become an expert at reading METARs, this is a good habit to develop that will improve your situational awareness and make you a better drone pilot.

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