Kp-index & Drone Operations

The Kp-index is often discussed in unmanned aviation circles, but does it represent a real threat to drone operators?

The Planetary K-index, or Kp-index, contains scientific measurements of the earth’s past and present geomagnetic storm activity that can affect communications, navigation, satellites, and the power grid.

Tracked daily by the German Research Centre for Geosciences, the Kp-index is also used to develop 1-4 hour predictions for future geomagnetic storm data.

Drone operators who use aircraft equipped with GPS capabilities may also want to pay attention to the Kp-index, as high levels of solar storm activity can cause GPS accuracy or signal interference issues.

Operators at higher latitudes, such as Alaska or Canada, are more likely to be affected by geomagnetic storms of less intensity. Users within the middle and lower latitiudes are rarely going to experience GPS communication issues attributable to the Kp-index, and are likely to be affected by only the highest intensity storms (such as a Kp-index level of 8 or 9).

The Kp-index is watched closely by photographers who want to capture images of the Aurora Borealis, as higher levels of geomagnetic storm activity can result in the “Northern Lights” being seen at lower latitudes.

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