Thanks to new sail drone footage, we’re quickly learning why Hurricane Fiona is shaping up to be the strongest storm of the Atlantic basin season. Recently, researchers sent a drone to the heart of the storm to capture video evidence of what occurred inside the powerful cyclone.
On Thursday, Florida researchers deployed a Saildrone, which traveled about 300 miles southwest of Bermuda. The drone shot video of seas approaching 50 feet while winds gusted to nearly 100 mph. In the video, it looks like the swells are mountains as the drone looks out over the waves.
The eerie moments are similar to those are only seen in movies, but with technology, people can operate the device from thousands of miles away. With this, they can record vital data for studying hurricanes.
“Saildrone is once again demonstrating its ability to provide critical ocean data in the most extreme weather conditions. Hurricane Fiona intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane just before hitting Puerto Rico, causing significant damage and loss of life,” said Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder and CEO.
“The data Saildrone vehicles are gathering will help the science community better understand rapid intensification, giving people living in our coastal communities more time to prepare.”
The floating weather stations are also remote-controlled and made to endure the intensity of Mother Nature.
The company also said the drone studying Fiona is moving through the storm at about 9 mph. However, when it reaches the crest of a swell and makes its way down, the drone’s downward speed can reach up to 40 mph.
In addition, at least three Saildrones have tracked the storm as it treks through the Caribbean and into the southwest Atlantic Ocean.
Data from drone technology could help scientists better understand hurricanes, tropical storms
However, this isn’t the first time researchers have implemented the use of drones to study hurricanes. In 2021, a sail drone intercepted Category Four storm, Hurrican Same. That year, the drone maneuvered into the storm’s eyewall.
In that instance, the drone captured swells of 50 feet and winds estimated to be around 140 mph.
The purpose of the sail drones is to collect data to better understand a storm’s strength and ocean surge.
“Uncrewed systems in the air, on the ocean surface, and underwater have the potential to transform how NOAA meets its mission to better understand the environment,” Capt. Philip Hall, director of NOAA’s Uncrewed Systems Operations Center, said in an official statement.
He added: “These exciting emerging technologies provide NOAA with another valuable tool that can collect data in places we can’t get to with other observing systems.”
Early on Saturday, Hurricane Fiona officially made landfall in Nova Scotia, raging through Canada’s Atlantic seaboard in what could be a “landmark” weather event for the country.