The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has shared a dramatic high-quality video of Hurricane Sam as experienced while floating on the ocean’s surface. The video was captured by a ‘saildrone,’ which is a type of floating drone that resembles a sailboat, only with a bright orange coating and a large solar panel.
This was, according to NOAA, the first time an unmanned surface drone has captured footage from a major hurricane. The achievement was pulled off by the Saildrone Explorer SD 1045, which managed to survive massive waves and 120 MPH winds to show just how powerful these hurricanes are.
In addition to the video, NOAA says the saildrone was able to gather “critical scientific data” about the weather, including real-time observations that’ll help refine hurricane prediction models in the future. How was the surface drone able to survive such an intense storm? According to NOAA, the saildrone features a ‘hurricane wing’ that enables it to survive the wind and waves.
The saildrone is able to record data and video in conditions that a traditional research vessel would be unable to operate in. Among other things, NOAA says the data gathered by these surface drones will help coastal communities in the path of hurricanes better prepare for their arrival. As well, the data will improve storm forecasting for better predictions.
NOAA scientist Greg Foltz said:
Using data collected by saildrones, 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.