via NOAA

USA - Hurricane Hunting Drones: The Future of Tropical Forecasting

Traveling for hours, covering hundreds of miles through the most dangerous parts of a storm

Before we know it, June first will be upon us and tracking tropical systems will be part of our everyday lives. But even outside Hurricane Season, hurricane hunters remain busy working on testing new tools that could greatly improve hurricane forecasts.

Last month the NOAA Hurricane Hunters launched a new uncrewed aircraft over Maryland that has the potential to change the world of tropical forecasting.

Over the past 77 years, Hurricane Hunters have been perfecting the art of flying into the heart of a storm. In recent years, the agency has been using two WP-3D Orion aircrafts, named Kermit and Miss Piggy, to gather vital weather data to create the most accurate forecast possible.

But these piloted missions into the eye of a storm come with some challenges, including the safety of those on board. During their flight, hunters avoid the most dangerous section of the storm, which is down at the surface called the lower eyewall boundary. But it’s here, where the high winds and towering ocean waves can hold valuable information of a storm.

Right now, meteorologists rely on dropsondes. These are tubes packed with weather instruments tied to a parachute. These are strategically dropped during the flight, and are used to measure factors such as temperature, wind speed and moisture. But these weather collectors are limited, in that they only record a snapshot of a storm.

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