Ocean roaming drones to gather meteorological data during 2021 Atlantic hurricane season

Saildrone is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other groups to study interaction between ocean and atmosphere during hurricanes in effort to improve forecasting

By: Tim Studebaker

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ALAMEDA, CALIF. (WLNE) – Researchers are gearing up to launch five drones that will roam the Atlantic Ocean to study hurricanes in a brand new way.

Andy Ziegwied is the Vice President of Ocean Data for the California-based company Saildrone.  He says, “No one has sailed an autonomous vehicle into a hurricane before.  This is an incredibly complex engineering challenge.”

They’ll sail directly into the path of hurricanes and gather data from right inside the storm that, until now, has been nearly impossible to measure without putting lives in danger.

Ziegwied says, “This mission will give us new insights into ocean conditions inside a hurricane, and will serve as a road map for future deployments in the Pacific and around the world to monitor extreme weather events.”

The data the Saildrones collect will be shared in real time with several groups around the world that research and forecast hurricanes.

Ziegwied says, “The goal is to understand the fine scale exchanges of heat between the sea water and the atmosphere, which can lead to the rapidly increasing strength of the storm.”

They hope that by taking and sharing those once-impossible measurements in real time, it will help improve hurricane forecasts, which would in turn protect lives and property.

Ziegwied says, “Having better understanding of which storms are likely to become severe hurricanes before or as they hit coastal communities will give communities more time to prepare and people more time to evacuate.”

The drones will be launched in August from Florida and the US Virgin Islands.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2021

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