For first time ever, drone sent into eye of Cat. 4 hurricane

A drone ship operated by Saildrone Inc. and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is “where no research vessel has ventured” to capture images from the eye of Hurricane Sam. According to Saildrone Founder and CEO Richard Jenkins, the achievement will transform scientists’ knowledge of hurricanes as we know them.

“This is an amazing victory for meteorology and will expand our knowledge of hurricanes,” said Dan DePodwin, director of forecast operations at AccuWeather, of the groundbreaking mission. He was not involved in the operation.

Sam reached major hurricane strength on Saturday, September 25th when it turned into a Category 3 storm. On Thursday September 30th, the storm had still maintained strong hurricane strength with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, making it a Category 4 hurricane. AccuWeather forecasters predict the storm will remain a major hurricane through the weekend.

The first videos of the unmanned surface vehicle called Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 were released on September 30th.

Saildrone Hurricane Sam GIF

A short video of a sailing drone in the eye of Hurricane Sam on September 30, 2021 (Saildrone)

According to Jesse Ferrell, AccuWeather’s Senior Weather Editor, NOAA scientists were able to send the saildrone right into the eye of the storm, where they could then record gusts of wind at 91 mph and waves as high as 42 feet.

Saildrone Hurricane Sam

A graph of data from the saildrone shows wind speeds of up to 40.5 m / s (92 mph) and waves of up to 12.8 m (42 feet). (NOAA / Saildrone)

Hurricane Sam also crossed a NOAA buoy on its way through the Atlantic on Wednesday night. The buoy was able to record waves almost 12 meters high and wind gusts of up to 150 km / h.

“Buoys are hundreds of miles apart in the open ocean. It was just a coincidence,” Ferrell said. “Now imagine if you could have a mobile buoy that you can place in front of the storm or drive into it. That is what NOAA and Saildrone did today.”

The story goes on

SD 1045 is one of five drone vessels to collect information on hurricanes across the Atlantic during hurricane season 2021, according to a press release from Saildrone.

Hurricane Sam & Sail Drone Position

A map showing the Sail drone’s path and the location of Hurricane Sam at 2 p.m. AST Thursday (NOAA).

“Saildrone goes where no research vessel has ventured, sails right in the eye of the hurricane and collects data that will change our understanding of these powerful storms,” ​​said Jenkins. “After conquering the Arctic and Southern Oceans, hurricanes were the final limit to the survivability of Saildrone. We are proud to have developed a vehicle that can operate in the most extreme weather conditions on earth.”

The data retrieved from the SD 1045 mission was sent directly to NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML). The data will provide NOAA with vital information regarding hurricane intensification.

“Using data collected from Saildrones, we expect to improve predictive models that predict the rapid intensification of hurricanes,” said NOAA oceanographer Greg Foltz. “Rapid intensification when hurricane winds intensify within hours is a serious threat to coastal communities. New data from drone ships and other unmanned systems used by NOAA will help us better predict the forces that propel hurricanes and within the Able to be. ” Warn communities earlier. “

Hurricane Sam Eye GIF 9/30

Hurricane Sam’s eye will turn on the afternoon of September 30, 2021 (NOAA / CIRA)

According to DePodwin, ships and other vessels typically avoid contact with hurricanes due to the dangerous nature of the storms, which can easily result in a sunken or damaged ship.

SD 1045 was able to successfully penetrate the eye of Hurricane Sam as its design was developed with the intention of traveling through these dangerous waters and significantly reducing the risks. The drone was built with a “hurricane wing” specifically for use in harsh hurricane conditions such as extreme winds.

“Just as flying airplanes in hurricanes revolutionized storm tracking, using a drone ship will reveal things we never knew about conditions on and near the surface of the ocean in the middle of a storm,” said DePodwin. “One can envision a future where both airplanes and drone ships will complement each other in understanding the science of the inner workings of a hurricane.”

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