In a world first, an ocean drone has captured video footage from inside a major hurricane.
The Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) was shipped into category 4 Hurricane Sam, currently on a northeastern path through the Atlantic Ocean, to collect real-time observations—and action film-worthy scenes.
A joint effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and USV manufacturer Saildrone, SD 1045 is one of five machines that operate in the Atlantic during hurricane season, gathering data about the physical processes of hurricanes.
“This knowledge is critical to improving storm forecasting and is expected to reduce loss of human life by allowing better preparedness in coastal communities,” according to a NOAA press release.
Powered by wind, the 23-foot-long autonomous vehicle features a “hurricane wing,” specially designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, like 50-foot waves and wind speeds of over 120mph. SD 1045 streams measurements like wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, temperature, salinity, humidity, and more to NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, where scientists aim to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes.
“Rapid intensification, when hurricane winds strengthen in a matter of hours, is a serious threat to coastal communities,” NOAA scientist Greg Foltz said in a statement. “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.”
An increase in wave and rip currents along the US east coast—strong enough to pose a danger to beachgoers from Florida to New England—are expected this weekend, AccuWeather reported. The storm, however, is expected to grow in size, posing possible threats to Bermuda and, to a lesser extent, Canada.