LONDON, ONT. -- The engineering team with the Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) was out flying a new piece of technology Thursday that will help it map out large areas of tornadoes.

“We fly it up in the air, and fly a grid pattern over an area that has been hit by a tornado, we take thousands of photos and stitch them all together, in to one big photo. Sort of like if you were looking at a satellite image from google, expect with a tornado path in it,” explains Dr. Connell Miller, a research engineer with NTP.

Miller says the new drone will enable the team to fly faster, farther and longer, because it’s a fixed wing drone.

“Quadcopters are great if you want to hover in the area in one spot, with a fixed wing, you are able to use aerodynamics to essentially fly for longer – were as a quadcopter you’re using a lot of battery to keep all four rotors turning, all the time.”

The new drone comes with a hefty price-tag of $25,000 but Miller says the benefits are worth it in terms of collecting data, because it can fly for up to an hour, and cover up to 500 acres.

Executive Director of NTP, Dr. Dave Sills says to get a better idea of what the tornado climatology is across Canada, they have to hit the cutting edge of all the different technology for imagining.

“We’ve got our drones, that are the leading edge of drone tech, we’ve got aerial aircraft imagery that we use, and we’ve got high resolution satellite imagery that gets done to several meters, to be able to capture all the tornado activity that is going on all across Canada,” said Dr. Sills.

Dr. Sills says unlike the U.S., the top tornadic month in Canada is July. Last year, there were roughly 77 tornadoes recorded in Canada. When NTP is called out to investigate a tornado, they bring along their drones.

“What these do is bring us high resolution images in places we can’t get to on foot. In fact, one of our techs has a license that allows him to fly the drone out of visuals range, which is not common for your recreational drone user,” says Dr. Sills.

Dr. Sills adds this is an unprecedented level of detail, that NTP is capturing for all the tornadoes they survey.

“Never been done in Canada, it’s actually pretty unique in the world, to systematically go out and collect this high resolution data on all these different tornadoes.”

The Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP), founded in 2017 as a partnership between Western University and ImpactWX, aims to better detect tornado occurrence throughout Canada, improve severe and extreme weather understanding and prediction, mitigate against harm to people and property, and investigate future implications due to climate change.