Millions of people know what it’s like to be caught in a hurricane. However, very few have seen the inside of a category 4 hurricane over the ocean and lived to tell the tale. Last month, the NOAA teamed up with Saildrone to find out what that looked like. The joint venture sent a seagoing drone into the eye of Hurricane Sam and caught some terrifying footage.
It doesn’t look like Hurricane Sam made landfall, which is the best possible outcome. According to Scientific American, Sam was the most powerful storm of the season. Additionally, it was the most powerful storm ever observed that far east that late in the hurricane season. In short, it would have been an absolute monster if it hit land.
The fact that Hurricane Sam was so strong and stayed over the ocean for so long made it the perfect candidate for the NOAA/Saildrone experiment. NOAA’s co-lead on the project, Greg Foltz, said, “We couldn’t have asked for a better storm, a category 4 hurricane.” Additionally, Sam was perfect because it experienced “rapid intensification,” which is when a storm’s wind speeds increase by 35 mph or more in 24 hours. The drone caught some chilling footage, which you can check out below.
However, the footage itself wasn’t the only goal of the project. They hope to be able to take data from the experiment and use it to improve future hurricane forecasts and models. The drone recorded the salinity and temperature of the ocean, wind speed, air temperature, and humidity, among other things. In short, this footage looks scary, but it might save lives in the future.
The fact that the seagoing drone survived the wind, rain, and massive swells might be the most impressive.
More About the Drone That Braved Hurricane Sam
When most people hear the word “drone,” they think of something that flies. Whether it’s one you can pick up at a store or a Predator Drone that drops missiles from a clear blue sky, most of us think of unmanned flying machines. However, the Saildrones are like small, unmanned sailboats.
In fact, the company outfits most of their drones with 8-foot-tall sails. This keeps them going on the ocean. However, that never would have survived the wrath of Hurricane Sam. Instead, they equipped this drone with a “hurricane wing,” which is shorter and rigid. The hurricane wing keeps the drone stable and moving in strong winds and helps it weather the massive waves.
The Saildrone that sailed into Hurricane Sam isn’t the only one on the ocean. The company and NOAA have launched five total drones fit for unmanned storm chasing. It just so happened that SD-1045 was near the path of Hurricane Sam. So, it didn’t take much to get it into position.
All in all, Foltz says, “It turned out very well.”