Red Saildrone floating in the sea. 1048 and Saildrone is written on the side.
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You may think of drones as a cool gadget that allows you to take to the skies. While drones can certainly be a fun toy, they also have a wide range of scientific and every day uses.

Later this summer, five little orang drones will set sail directly into the paths of hurricanes. Their mission? To gather data from inside the storms that will hopefully save lives and coastal properties.

Hurricanes are often deadly and cost the United States an estimated $54 billion each year. Saildrone, the company behind these drones that is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says the biggest challenge to hurricane forecasting is rapid intensification and that these drones will help scientists understand more about how the ocean works during these storms.

Ocean Drone Facts:

• Number of drones: 5

• Launching location: Florida and US Virgin Islands

• Exploring location: Atlantic Ocean

The drones will monitor heat, wind speeds, water pressure, and other metrics. They’ll then communicate these measurements to scientists as the storm is happening. 

“The biggest gap in our understanding of hurricanes are the processes by which they intensify so quickly, as well as the ability to accurately predict how strong they will become,” said Dr. Jun Zhang, a scientist in the Hurricane Research Division at NOAA/AOML. “We know that the exchange of heat between the ocean and the atmosphere is one of the key physical processes providing energy to a storm, but to improve understanding, we need to collect in situ observations during a storm. Of course, that is extremely difficult given the danger of these storms. We hope that data collected with saildrones will help us to improve the model physics, and then, in turn, we will be able to improve hurricane intensity forecasts.”

By understanding more about the storms, scientists believe they’ll be able to offer more accurate predictions which will allow more time for people to prepare and evacuate. The drones will be launched in August from Florida and the US Virgin Islands.


June 2021