Marine drone developer Saildrone has released footage taken by one of its uncrewed surface vehicles (USV) from inside Hurricane Fiona (Category 4) as it barreled across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Saildrone Explorer SD 1078 was directed into the midst of Hurricane Fiona, which is the first Category 4 storm of the 2022 season. SD 1078 battled with 15m waves and winds measuring over 100mph to collect scientific data.
Inside the storm, SD 1078 sailed at sustained speeds of more than 9mph, reaching a peak speed of 39.7mph while surfing down a large wave.
SD 1078 is one of seven ‘hurricane’ saildrones that have been operating in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico during this hurricane season.
Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder and CEO, said, “Saildrone is once again demonstrating its ability to provide critical ocean data in the most extreme weather conditions. Hurricane Fiona intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane just before hitting Puerto Rico, causing significant damage and loss of life. The data Saildrone vehicles are gathering will help the science community better understand rapid intensification, giving people living in our coastal communities more time to prepare.”
Saildrone provides data directly to the NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML). The seven saildrones are a part of a larger NOAA endeavor to understand hurricane intensification.
Philip Hall, director of the NOAA’s Uncrewed Systems Operations Center, which is providing funding for the Saildrone effort, said, “Uncrewed systems in the air, on the ocean surface and underwater have the potential to transform how NOAA meets its mission to better understand the environment. These exciting emerging technologies provide NOAA with another valuable tool that can collect data in places we can’t get to with other observing systems.”
This is the second video footage Saildrone has released from inside a major hurricane: last year, SD 1045 spent 24 hours inside Category 4 Hurricane Sam, sending back high-resolution video and images in near real time.