MIAMI - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Saildrone Inc. have released the first video footage from inside a major hurricane using an unscrewed surface vehicle, which is a floating drone.
According to NOAA, one of Saildrone's drones, the Saildrone Explorer SD 1045, was directed into the midst of Hurricane Sam, a Category 4 hurricane, which is currently on a path that is expected to miss the U.S. East Coast.
"SD1045 is battling 50-foot waves and winds of over 120 mph to collect critical scientific data and, in the process, is giving us a completely new view of one of earth’s most destructive forces," NOAA wrote in a press release.
The seafaring drone is braving the hurricane in the open ocean, where it can gather and collect real-time observations.
"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," said Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder and CEO. "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."
NOAA hopes the drone can yield new insights into how large and destructive tropical cyclones grow and intensify.
"Using data collected by saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes," said Greg Foltz, a NOAA scientist. "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."
Swells generated by Sam will impact the Northern Leeward Islands and the Greater Antilles, including Puerto Rico, over the next few days. In addition swells are expected to impact Bermuda and the Bahamas on Friday and then spread to the U.S. East Coast by the weekend.
Swells can cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.