Saildrone and NOAA have announced a new world record for the highest wind speed recorded by an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV).
Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 measured 109.83 knots (126.4mph) as it passed through the eyewall of Category 4 Hurricane Sam in 2021. The Guinness Book of World Records is including the record for the first time in the 2024 edition.
SD 1045 is an Explorer-class USV, designed, manufactured and operated by Saildrone. Saildrone Explorers are 7m long and typically have a 5m-tall wing sail, similar to an airplane, which provides forward propulsion. The Explorers used for extreme weather monitoring are equipped with a shorter, more robust ‘hurricane’ wing, specially designed to withstand the conditions inside a tropical cyclone.
SD 1045 spent 24 hours inside Hurricane Sam, delivering the world’s first video footage from inside a major hurricane sweeping across the Atlantic Ocean. Withstanding massive waves and sustained winds over 100mph, SD 1045 collected important data about the physical interactions between the ocean and atmosphere that revealed new insights about hurricane intensification.
The Atlantic Hurricane mission is part of ongoing NOAA research into how and why some relatively mild tropical storms rapidly intensify into major hurricanes, which are particularly destructive when it happens just before landfall. The data will also be archived by NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) and sent by NOAA to the WMO’s Global Telecommunication System, where it is available for the world’s major forecast centers.
“This world-record is a testament to the unique endurance of the Saildrone platform,” said Saildrone founder and CEO Richard Jenkins. “We are proud to have engineered a vehicle capable of operating in the most extreme weather conditions on earth, to deliver data that can help to advance understanding of these powerful storms and protect our coastal communities.”