'Saildrone' footage provides rare insight into Category 4 hurricane

Looks like the video could be a b-roll of the 2000 film “The Perfect Storm”. The camera is tossed around in winds of up to 120 miles pe...


Looks like the video could be a b-roll of the 2000 film “The Perfect Storm”.

The camera is tossed around in winds of up to 120 miles per hour and waves of up to 50 feet, all amid dense clouds.

But it’s not Hollywood. The 28-second clip shot by an unmanned ship on Thursday was a one-of-a-kind preview inside a major hurricane, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

The 23-foot ship pierced the eye wall of Hurricane Sam as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Sam, which peaked as a Category 4 storm, was downgraded to category 2 storm Sunday but still blowing winds up to 100mph

“This is a truly revolutionary achievement because we have shown for the first time that it is possible to send an unmanned R / C vehicle to the ocean surface directly in a major hurricane – one of the most difficult environments on Earth – and showed us that we can immediately recover this extremely valuable data from inside the hurricane, ”said Greg Foltz, a NOAA scientist involved in the effort on Saturday.

“It has never been done,” he added.

Dr Foltz said the knowledge gained was essential to improve storm forecasting and reduce loss of life in coastal communities at a time when climate change is exacerbating hurricanes.

Drones, he said, measure the key processes that lead to intensifying hurricanes, which is defined as maximum sustained winds strengthening by 30 knots or more in a day. This includes quantifying the energy exchange between the ocean and the hurricane and the ocean’s frictional effect on the storm, he said.

“It really opens up a whole new area of ​​possibilities for hurricane watching,” he said.

Rapidly intensifying hurricanes pose a serious threat to coastal communities, said Dr Foltz.

For example, Hurricane Michael was supposed to arrive in October 2018 as a tropical storm, but instead furiously amplified and crashed into the Florida Panhandle with winds reaching 155 mph

The phenomenon “does not happen very often but can be dangerous and is very poorly understood,” he said.

The vehicle that became Sam is one of five “Saildrones” who collected data in the Atlantic during hurricane season to better understand storms.

The hurricane program is the product of a partnership between NOAA and Saildrones Inc., an Alameda, California-based company that manufactures and operates the vehicles. The company has begun with $ 2.5 million in grants from Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, and his wife, Wendy Schmidt.

The company’s autonomous vehicles have been deployed for ocean mapping, maritime security, and other uses from the Arctic to the Antarctic. But getting inside a hurricane was the “last frontier” of drone survivability, said Richard Jenkins, the company’s chief executive.

“For our first boat, getting through a Category 4 hurricane without any damage is phenomenal from an engineering perspective,” said Mr. Jenkins, himself a sailor. “These are conditions that would sink almost any ship.”

He described the Saildrone as unsinkable and submersible. It “could be held underwater for a long time and come up,” he said. Saildrone wing technology allows a mission to last up to 12 months without the need to return ashore for maintenance or refueling, the company said.

NOAA has a long-term commitment to advancing drone technology and envisions a fleet of Saildrones operating in the Atlantic each year during hurricane season, Dr Foltz said. He also has short-term plans.

“We still have about a month left at the height of hurricane season,” he said. “We hope to place another Saildrone in a hurricane and get more valuable measurements this year.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: 'Saildrone' footage provides rare insight into Category 4 hurricane
'Saildrone' footage provides rare insight into Category 4 hurricane
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