Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have successfully managed to send a drone where no drone has ever gone before. The drone has now beamed back footage of what it is to be inside a hurricane.
According to AccuWeather, Sam is a Category 4 Hurricane and is 380 miles (612 km) away from Bermuda at the time of writing. With wind speeds inching to the 150 mph (241 kph) mark, this is the strongest storm currently on the planet. With a mandate to conserve America’s coastal and marine resources, NOAA needs to predict the changing environment and therefore teamed up with Saildrone to study hurricanes.
Alameda, a California-based Saildrone, offers autonomous uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) that can aid in a wide spectrum of operations ranging from mapping to weather forecasting, carbon cycling, global fishing, and climate change. Propelled by the wind, these USVs are equipped with solar-powered meteorological and oceanographic sensors for data collection missions.
To improve the understanding of hurricanes, NOAA has deployed five USVs in the Atlantic Ocean which are collected data round the clock. SD 1045 is one such USV that is also equipped with a specially designed 'hurricane' wing that helps it operate in extreme wind conditions. So as Hurricane Sam turned away from the U.S. East Coast, the researchers directed the drone into its midst. Battling 50-foot (15 m) high waves the drone caught the footage of the inside of the Hurricane and beamed it back to the NOAA team.
Richard Jenkins, founder and CEO of drone company said, "Saildrone is going where no research vessel has ever ventured, sailing right into the eye of the hurricane, gathering data that will transform our understanding of these powerful storms."
"New data from saildrones and other uncrewed systems that NOAA is using will help us better predict the forces that drive hurricanes and be able to warn communities earlier," said Greg Foltz, a scientist at NOAA. "Using data collected by saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes."