‘Saildrone’ Image Offers Rare Look Inside a Category 4 Hurricane


The video looks like it could b-roll from here. 2000 movie “Perfect Storm”.

The camera is blown by winds up to 120 miles per hour and waves rising up to 50 feet, all amid dense clouds.

But this isn’t Hollywood. A 28-second clip taken by an unmanned ship on Thursday, first of its kind Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it came from inside a major hurricane.

The 23-metre ship pierced the eyewall of Hurricane Sam as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Sam, which peaked as a Category 4 storm, Downgraded to category 2 Storm on Sunday but still packing winds up to 100 mph

“This is truly a groundbreaking achievement because we have shown for the first time that it is possible to send a crewed, remote-controlled vehicle on the ocean surface directly into a major hurricane – one of the harshest environments on Earth – and we have demonstrated that we can immediately retrieve this extremely valuable data from within the hurricane,” he said. Greg Foltz, a NOAA scientist involved in the effort, said in an interview Saturday.

“This has never been done,” he added.

Dr. Foltz said the information gathered is critical to improving storm forecasts and reducing loss of life in coastal communities at a time when climate change is making hurricanes stronger.

The drones, he said, are measuring key processes that make the hurricane intensify, defined as the maximum sustained wind that strengthens to 30 knots or more in a day. That includes measuring the energy exchange between the ocean and the hurricane and the ocean’s frictional effect on the storm, he said.

“This really opens up a whole new field of possibilities for observing a tornado,” he said.

Dr. The rapid intensification of hurricanes poses a serious threat to coastal communities, Foltz said.

For example, Hurricane Michael was expected to arrive as a tropical storm in October 2018, but rage instead. to speed up and hit the Florida Panhandle with winds reaching 155 mph

This phenomenon “doesn’t happen very often, but it can be dangerous and is poorly understood,” he said.

The vehicle that transforms into Sam is one of five vehicles. “Sailboats” Those who collect data in the Atlantic during hurricane season to better understand storms.

The hurricane program is a partnership between NOAA and Saildrones Inc., a company based in Alameda, California that manufactures and operates vehicles. It is the product of partnership between Company started With a $2.5 million grant 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 Antarctica. But the company’s CEO, Richard Jenkins, said getting inside a hurricane is the “final limit” to drones’ survival.

“It’s engineering extraordinary for our first boat to pass a Category 4 hurricane without any damage,” said Mr. Jenkins, a seafarer himself. “These are conditions that would sink almost any ship.”

He described the Saildrone as unsinkable and submersible. “It can be kept underwater for a long time and reappear,” he said. The company said its Saildrone wing technology allows a mission to last up to 12 months without needing to return to land for maintenance or refueling.

Dr. Foltz 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. He also has short-term plans.

“We still have a month to hit the peak of hurricane season,” he said. “We hope to get another Saildrone into a hurricane this year and get more valuable measurements.”



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