North Carolina — It's now officially the start of hurricane season, and scientists are hard at work trying to keep us safe. With the help of game-changing new drones, they'll be able to venture into depths they've never gone before, right into the eye of the hurricanes.
The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association, known as 'NOAA,' is partnering with a company called Saildrone to launch 5 ocean drones along the eastern North Carolina coast. The five little orange warriors, known as 'saildrones,' will set off to sea this summer. Their mission is to gather data from the heart of the hurricanes that will hopefully save lives.
"That data is very important," said Andy Ziegwied, Vice President of Ocean Data for Saildrone, "It’s never been collected before from the sea surface, so it’s quite novel."
It's complex data that measures the exchange of energy between a hurricane and the ocean, which NOAA oceanographer and leader on the mission Greg Foltz says is incredibly difficult to get.
"Very rare to have. So if we can get those measurements, that’ll be like a research objective and if we can understand this energy and this momentum exchange better, that can go into the models, help make the models better," explained Foltz.
The drones will monitor heat, wind speeds, water pressure, and other metrics and communicate them to scientists as the storm is happening.
"We’ll collect the data and it’ll be transferred in real-time satellites and back to land," said Foltz, "And this will go into the forecast centers around the world where they predict hurricane intensity and their tracks."
Foltz says this can help predict how strong hurricanes will be, and also how quickly they'll form, so that they can notify people to evacuate sooner.
Given Eastern North Carolina's history of hurricanes, especially in these past couple years, Ziegwied says it's very likely that the drones will directly help people on our coastline.
"They could very much be gathering data from a hurricane that does touch ground in North Carolina," he said.
Both Ziegwied and Foltz say they have confidence the 20-foot drones will be able to withstand hurricanes, as they're designed to withstand winds over 70 mph and waves over 10 feet.