PUNCHER PROJECT MISSION OBJECTIVES


mission documentation - media applications

360 Camera Device Usage - Creating a immersive storm viewing experience

The Tornado Puncher project is aiming to capture some of the most incredible storm footage while we are deploying. One of our biggest goals is to capture immersive 360 video during the height of our missions.

Viewers will be able to view inside the Tornado Puncher cockpit along with many other different angles with high quality 4K cameras mounted front to back on the Puncher. This will provide not only just an entertaining viewing experience, however will also provide a powerful educational tool that will show the power of nature!


Check out this 360-video captured May 9th, 2016 near Lehigh, Oklahoma. Our team at the time was not in an armored vehicle prompting us to stay back at a safe distance. The Tornado Puncher will be able to get much closer, if not completely intercept tornadoes like these.



Today we have much higher quality 360 cameras providing much clearer images than what you see in this video. We show this to you so you can imagine what is possible with our 360 and immersive video goals!


The Tornado Puncher will also have many other cams for live streaming, viewers will be able to tag along and watch as we move toward our target areas and deploy. Check our social media outlets for more information on our deployment and streaming plans!


Data Collection - Sensor Deployment

The Puncher will deploy multiple sensors during intercepts

Much like the movie “Twister” which featured a storm chaser that had a goal of putting a probe in a tornado to deploy air born sensors. The data we collect is mapped every 100th of a second and in each point on that map we have a geo location, temperature, humidity, pressure and video.


We are trying to understand how Mother Natures most efficient way of mixing cold and hot air in the hope that this research will be conducted to revise a rigorous mathematical model to open the door to another tool of enhanced tornado prediction and risk assessment, which will save lives and property from these fascinatingly terrible disasters.


Assist Emergency Response - Search & Rescue

The Puncher will be equipped to assist after disaster

Severe storms often provide incredible views with a spectacular show from nature. However, when these severe storms roll through populated areas, the results can be very devastating. The Tornado Puncher will be equipped for this unfortunate reality and be ready to assist emergency response operations.


The Tornado Puncher will be equipped with a pusher plate, designed to push large debris out of roadways. This will assist emergency response teams with getting to impacted areas much quicker to offer aid to those that are in need.

The Tornado Puncher will also be equipped with a wench to assist with lifting heavy debris, as well as emergency lighting to aid immediate search and rescue operations.


Storm Damage Research - Post Storm Analysis

The Puncher team will be working closely with our restoration partners after disaster strikes

The Tornado Puncher team will be working closely with organizations that specialize with restoration efforts. One of our goals is to provide data in hopes that will eventually lead to improved materials that can better withstand severe weather elements.


One of the primary organizations the Tornado Punching team has partnered with is the National Storm Contractors Association (NSCA). The NSCA is an organization of restoration experts nationwide that come together after disaster strikes. Through our collaboration with the NSCA, we are able to effectively gain insight into the restoration response efforts immediately after severe weather impacts communities.


latest puncher news

The Puncher Gear has been designed!

We keep getting several requests for the Tornado Puncher gear, we now have T-Shirts, Polo Shirts, Hats and even Travel Bags now designed! We are still working out the logistics and pricing of each item, however within the next week we will make an annoucement. Check out the designs above and feel free to provide your thoughts!


Impact Testing - 150 MPH projectile impact test 3/15/2017

Before the Tornado Puncher is ready to deploy, we must first put it to the test. Our first test involved shooting multiple projectiles at the puncher at speeds over 150 MPH. Over the course of the next few weeks we will continue put the puncher to the test and document the results. Check back as we will be posting more content throughout the severe weather season!


The Tornado Puncher - FAQ

Q. Why build another tornado interceptor, hasn’t that been done before?

A. The Puncher is a tornado probe in which we manually drive near to where we think we can cross the paths with the tornado. We leave the machine and put it into remote/autonomous mode so we can move it safely and slowly with no life on board into the tornadoes path and deploy sensors, live stream data, video and 360 video.

Q. What kind of data is the Puncher collecting?

A. Much like the movie “Twister” which featured a storm chaser that had a goal of putting a probe in a tornado to deploy air born sensors. The data we collect is mapped every 100th of a second and in each point on that map we have a geo location, temperature, humidity, pressure and video. We want to collect and map the data from the 150 foot layer of a tornadic storm. To measure and record what happens in the “low-pressure heat engine” at the center of the vortex and how it maintains the circulation and sustains this heat engine.

We know the tornado must pull a steady supply of warm, humid air from the ground level and we know these warm air pockets preferentially rise, it is very likely that the presence of these pockets could steer the base of the vortex along its path. The top of the vortex continues in the storm direction, so tornado paths are reasonably straight overall. If a weak tornado passes over a large warm bubble, the vortex will increase in radius and strength in the time that it takes the bubble to rise and cool. If a tornado loses its warm air source, the low-pressure vacuum begins to fill in, causing the remaining circulation to become narrower and slower. This is consistent with a tornado’s life-cycle: hook echo circulation to violent wedge tornado to weak “rope” tornado.

We are trying to understand how Mother Natures most efficient way of mixing cold and hot air in the hope that this research will be conducted to revise a rigorous mathematical model to open the door to another tool of enhanced tornado prediction and risk assessment, which will save lives and property from these fascinatingly terrible disasters.

Q. How do you protect the tires?

A. We developed a kinetic plate system that attaches to the steel wheels that protects the tires vulnerable side walls as well as mitigate the effects of impact energy to our steering, suspension and drive-line components.

Q. How does the Puncher not get destroyed by a Tornado?

A. We made the profile of the Puncher small and angular as to catch as little wind as possible and what wind we do catch (+/- 400 pounds load per square foot) is kept from getting under the Puncher with our skirt plating that contacts the road surface. To limit the ability of the wind to push or lift the Puncher it is also very heavy machine itself weighs over 5,000 pounds there are also ballast tanks on the Puncher that can take on another 5,000 pounds of water. We use water for weight because we can more efficiently move the Puncher long distances when tanks are empty, we fill them the day before we chase and keep them full to prevent “sloshing”. To protect the machine from impact debris we use a thick heavy armour plating that has been tested and proven. The suspension has extra leaf springs and air bags to help carry the weight. When we are parked the air bags drop the Puncher to the ground to keep air from getting under the metal and composite skirt.

Q. What is used for the Punchers armour plating?

A. We use a composite armour on top of a special carbon steel which is a type of vehicle armour consisting of layers of different materials. In tornadoes we all know that debris caught in it's wind will damage things—and people—because that debris travels at high speeds with huge amounts of kinetic energy. The plates on the Puncher work by by absorbing (soaking up) and dissipating (spreading out) the energy of a impact. When something hits the Puncher the debris has its energy "stolen" from it as it tries to fight its way through. Although the top composite coating on the Puncher is stronger than the ¼ inch carbon steel under it and about 5 times less dense but it still gives just as much protection as the underlying steel plate.

Q. Is the Puncher legal to be on the road?

A. The Puncher is a implement (piece of equipment) when it's chasing storms it is being towed/hauled by a conventional vehicle. The Puncher has turn signals, lights and other things street legal vehicles have we still only use it as a implement meaning we are marked as a slow moving vehicle and our speed on public roads is under 30 miles per hour. In robotic mode the speed limit is capped at just a few miles per hour as to better line up with the tornado its crossing paths with. To avoid collision with other vehicles or debris that mistakenly get in the path of the tornado (no mans land) by the wind or by mistake we have a LIDAR avoidance system. LIDAR is the sensor we use for reliable navigation, localization, and obstacle avoidance because sonar has poor resolution and short range; structured light and time-of-travel sensors are short range and don’t work well outdoors; and camera-based vision systems aren’t robust enough for reliable navigation in wind and rain.

Q. What else can the Puncher do?

A. We have a blade attachment so we can help push debris and clear a path for emergency workers. In low gear and low four wheel drive the Puncher is very good at pushing, because we are very much a tractor.

Q. What did the Puncher start out as?

A. The Puncher was originally in the beginning was being built on a much smaller platform based on the front wheel drive of a Chevy Impala. That project was scrapped for a 1977 4x4 Blazer with a 400 cubic inch V8 motor and we realized we could use it as a tractor of sorts with the 4x4 low and a push blade attachment. Another bonus was that we had the room to add a cockpit so we could manually operate the Puncher to the storm path, get out and let it remotely crawl into the path of the tornado and collect data.

Q. Who's idea was it to build the Puncher and why?

A. Russel Gehrke wanted to help better predict tornadoes and build more affordable storm shelters after a EF5 tornado hit the city of Joplin which is near to where he lives with his family. Gehrke has spent the years following the Joplin tornado inventing and build storm shelters, warning sirens, weather detection systems and now the Puncher. Gehrke has built many motorcycles and hot rods for celebrities and has been featured for his creative inventions through the years on the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels,” Discovery Channel’s “Cool Fuel Road Trip” series and other programs. The cable network appearances helped Gehrke land back-to-back McGraw-Hill book deals. He wrote “Recycling Projects for the Evil Genius” and “Renewable Energies for Your Home.”