Very few people are foolish enough to rush into a category-4 hurricane with a camera rolling (maybe Jake Paul will do it. Let’s ask him), but Saildrone isn’t a person. Saildrone isn’t even a single drone — the company behind the oceangoing drone is piloting a batch of five of them around the Atlantic Ocean.
As part of a joint investigation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Explorer SD 1045 drone was sent inside the slowly-flagging Hurricane Sam in order to capture video of the inside of the weather phenomenon.
Saildrone shows some skill
The result of that mission is the “…first video footage gathered by an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) from inside a major hurricane” in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s quite a feat, given that the unmanned craft was battling 50-foot (15 metres) waves and wind speeds of more than 200km/h in order to nab its footage.
The point? To learn more about hurricanes, obviously. Sure, we could send in actual researchers but they tend to be a little preoccupied with trying to vomit as neatly as possible while their boats are tossed around by massive mountains of water and wind. That’s hardly the ideal mindset for doing science. It’s a far better idea to send a drone in to do the observations instead. This particular craft is able to survive thanks to a special “hurricane wing” that lets it handle the high winds without being summarily picked up and shaken to death.
NOAA scientist Greg Foltz said, “Using data collected by sail drones, we expect 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. 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.”