LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Gonzo and the crew are gearing up for Idalia.

“This is our high altitude aircraft,” said Jonathan Shannon about NOAA’s Gulf Stream 4 aircraft called “Gonzo.”

Jonathan Shannon, public affairs specialist for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, said two crews will be working 24-hour operations during Idalia.

One crew flies above the storm on the G-4, while a P-3 aircraft flies through the storm.

“The reason we fly these aircraft is basically we’re taking the weather station to the weather,” said Shannon.

Picture of Idalia from the Yucatan Peninsula
Source: NOAA/Richard Henning

The aircrafts collect data on conditions, including rain rates, wind shear, the structure of the storm and its direction.

The planes also deploy dropsondes, which take a snapshot of conditions as they fall through the storm.

NOAA is still testing out its drone program.

While dropsondes take that snapshot, the drones can maneuver through the dangerous areas.

“Under 2,000, 1,000 or 500 feet above the surface of the water, that’s where the interaction is happening with the warm moist air coming from the water, feeding that storm. So we really want to know what’s going on with that interface, so we can figure out rapid intensification, how these storms transition from tropical storm to major hurricane or as they weaken,” said Shannon.

Shannon called drones the “next frontier of data gathering.”

Meanwhile, crews, including pilots, technicians and meteorologists, will be flying through the storm as always.

“Sort of like an old wooden roller coaster through a car wash. So you get your jilts and jumps. You get your big dips sometimes and then you’re just rattling and vibrating. Then you’ve got like the water hose hitting you as you go through,” said Shannon.