Drones Will Measure Hurricane Intensity [AUDIO]
This summer, scientists will use the latest available technology to take on Mother Nature and determine how severe developing hurricanes could become, and what level of preparedness will be required if the storms make landfall.
This week -- Hurricane Preparedness Week -- researchers announced that they will deploy drones to fly into the storms and collect data. Joe Cione of NOAA's Miami Hurricane Research Center said he will experiment this season by deploying the little planes to boldly go where larger hurricane hunter aircraft cannot.
"Part of this project is to more heavily sample that lower portion of the storm that is very dangerous to fly a manned aircraft," Cione said. "We can fly these drones that don't put anyone at risk."
He also said the little robo-planes can provide hurricane researchers with a data "movie" of a storm's potential strength, as opposed to the "snapshot" approach of previous research. Typically, aircraft used by "hurricane hunters" don't fly below 5,000 feet. The radar they use is real-time radar that can't provide information on elements of the storms such as thermodynamics.
The actual winged drone is called a "Coyote." It measures 3 feet long and weighs 7 pounds. Paid for with post-Superstorm Sandy federal funding, the device is designed to slowly descend, gliding down on a storm's air currents, while it collects great amounts of data on its strength.
Cione says forecasting a big storm's future track has greatly improved over the past 30 years. And now, hopefully, these drones will fill a big gap in forecasting a hurricane's intensity early on.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.