In the Atlantic Ocean, five drones will collect data before and during hurricanes.
It’s that time of year when coastal cities in the United States, particularly those along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, prepare for hurricane season. These hurricanes have the potential to wreak significant damage, not only to people but also to the economy.
It’s critical to track and predict when hurricanes will make landfall, as well as how strong they’ll be. It’s also difficult and complicated. Tropical storm forecasting in the Atlantic basin is the responsibility of organizations like the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
According to the University of Rhode Island’s Hurricane Science research, the NHC’s hurricane forecasting methodology involves observations from satellites, reconnaissance aircraft, ships, buoys, radar, and land-based devices, among others. Collecting that data necessitates a great deal of cooperation, and even then, projections can be inaccurate.
To aid this process, the ocean drone company Saildrone has teamed up with the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on a mission that will send five uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) straight into the storm’s eye.
The USVs, or ocean drones, will take off from the US Virgin Islands and will be stationed in parts of the Atlantic Ocean, collecting in-situ data before and during hurricanes.
Scientists from PMEL and AOML will pilot the orange floating drones right into a succession of hurricanes to learn more about how they intensify so quickly, with the ultimate goal of saving lives and reducing economic damage.
Saildrone’s USVs are currently the only autonomous vehicles capable of collecting meteorological and environmental data above and below the sea surface while surviving a hurricane’s impact.
“Saildrone will be able to go where no scientific vessel has ever gone, directly into the eye of the cyclone, and gather data that could make communities across the world safer from these deadly storms,” said Richard Jenkins, founder, and CEO of Saildrone.
The team has its work cut out for them, as predicting the severity and strength of a storm is extremely difficult. Furthermore, gathering real-time data during a storm is incredibly difficult.
“Of course, considering the severity of the storms, this is incredibly tough. We expect that the data obtained by saildrones will aid in the improvement of model physics, allowing us to improve storm intensity estimates “Dr. Jun Zhang, a scientist at NOAA/Hurricane AOML’s Research Division, stated the situation.
Last year, the United States saw a near-record-breaking hurricane season in the Atlantic, with 24 storms predicted. Double hurricanes hit the Gulf of Mexico, with Hurricane Laura making landfall in Louisiana.
From specialized air drones to cold bubble nets and now to 23-foot saildrones, scientists around the world are working hard to better forecast, monitor, and calm these types of storms.
With over 10,000 days at sea and 500,000 nautical miles sailed from the Arctic to the Southern Ocean, Saildrone has a proven track record of completing successful missions in the world’s hardest conditions.