Saildrone Footage Offers a Rare Peek inside of a Major Category 4 Hurricane while battling 120 mph and 50-foot waves. Saildrone Inc. and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have released the first video footage gathered by an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) from inside a major hurricane barreling across the Atlantic Ocean.
Saildrone creates autonomous vehicles outfitted with a variety of instruments used to collect measurements and observations, from above and below the surface of the ocean, according to information found on the Saildrone website. Saildrone designs, manufactures, and operates the world’s most capable, proven, and trusted USVs. These drones as mentioned above are fully autonomous surface vehicles that are solar and wind-powered. They collect a variety of marine data that can be delivered in real-time from any ocean at any time of the year.
Schematic showing the variety of instruments that Saildrone has to offer that are used to monitor oceanic, marine, and atmospheric conditions.
Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 was directed into the midst of Hurricane Sam, from their headquarters in Alameda, CA. As mentioned above Explorer SD 1045 battled 50-foot waves and 120 mph winds collecting critical scientific data. Explorer SD 1045 was equipped with a specially designed "hurricane wing" allowing it to operate in extreme wind conditions as seen in Hurricane Sam. Explorer SD 1045 collected real-time observations with its variety of instruments for numerical hurricane prediction models, which are expected to yield new insights into how large and destructive tropical cyclones grow and intensify. For many years we have collected data inside hurricanes by flying into them. Both the US Air Force (53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Known as the Hurricane Hunters) and NOAA fly into tropical systems collecting data from the air and the surface using a variety of instruments on the aircraft and deploying dropsondes. Explorer SD 1045 can do this from the surface but can collect more information given the vast amount of sensors equipped to these USVs.
A dropsonde is a weather instrument that is dropped out of an aircraft into a hurricane to collect data. During its descent, it transmits data about the surrounding atmosphere back to scientists by using a variety of sensors. Dropsondes measure the usual weather parameters of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, and wind speed.
Explorer SD 1045 is one of a fleet of five hurricane Saildrones that have been operating in the Atlantic this hurricane season. “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 the 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.”
The Saildrones provide data directly to NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), Saildrone’s partners in this mission.
“Using data collected by Saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes,” said Greg Foltz, an 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.”