VIDEO: NOAA collects scientific data from inside Hurricane Sam using ocean drone

Tracking the Tropics

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Saildrone Inc. released video on Friday from an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) inside of a major hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean.

According to NOAA, the Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 is currently battling 50-foot waves and over 120 miles per hour winds in the midst of Hurricane Sam, a category 4 storm.

The ocean drone is collecting “critical scientific data” and is giving scientists “a completely new view of one of earth’s most destructive forces,” NOAA said.

The device is equipped with a specially designed “hurricane wing” which allows it to operate in extreme wind conditions.

According to NOAA, SD 1045 is “one of a fleet of five ‘hurricane’ Saildrones that have been operating in the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season, gathering data around the clock to help understand the physical processes of hurricanes.” The information gathered will help with improving storm forecasting and is expected to reduce the loss of human life by “allowing better preparedness in coastal communities.”

“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. “We are proud to have engineered a vehicle capable of operating in the most extreme weather conditions on earth.”

The unique piece of equipment provides data directly to NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

“Using data collected by Saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes,” said Greg Foltz, a 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.”

Hurricane Sam is roughly 240 miles southeast of Bermuda. While the storm is forecast to weaken during the next couple of days, the National Hurricane Center says Sam is expected to remain a major hurricane through at least Saturday night.

For more information on the ocean drone, visit NOAA’s website.

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