NOAA has released the first video footage gathered by an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) from inside a major hurricane moving across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 battled 50ft waves and winds of more than 120mph to reach the core of Hurricane Sam, a category 4 hurricane.
Equipped with a specially designed “hurricane wing,” enabling it to operate in extreme wind conditions, SD 1045 is collecting real-time observations for numerical hurricane prediction models, which are expected to yield new insights into how large and destructive tropical cyclones grow and intensify.
SD 1045 is one of a fleet of five ‘hurricane’ Saildrones that have been operating in the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season, gathering data around the clock to help understand the physical processes of hurricanes. This knowledge is critical to improving storm forecasting and is expected to reduce loss of human life by allowing better preparedness in coastal communities.
Richard Jenkins, founder and CEO of Saildrone, the USV manufacturer, 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. After conquering the Arctic and Southern Ocean, hurricanes were the last frontier for Saildrone survivability. We are proud to have engineered a vehicle capable of operating in the most extreme weather conditions on Earth.”
The Saildrones provide data directly to NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.
Greg Foltz, oceanographer, NOAA, said, “Using data collected by saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes. Rapid intensification, when hurricane winds strengthen in a matter of hours, is a serious threat to coastal communities. 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.”