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These seafaring ‘robot surfboards’ will float into a hurricane soon – for science

Saildrones, or “robot surfboards,” will be guided into hurricanes in the Atlantic Oceans to help scientists study the killer storms.

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For the second year in a row, “robot surfboards,” also known as Saildrones, will be piloted directly into Atlantic hurricanes. Enhancing future storm predictions is the objective.

The hurricane wing on these seagoing drones is what allows them to fly in the high winds that accompany hurricanes.

According to USA TODAY, oceanographer Greg Foltz of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami said that the saildrones are not tethered to the ground. They are stationed near land during the months of June and July and then sent to areas where hurricanes have historically made landfall. During the height of hurricane season, the saildrones will fly and report back on their findings (August to October).

“They are remotely directed by saildrone pilots collaborating with NOAA scientists, and their routes are adjusted based on whether there is a tropical cyclone developing that we can send the drones into,” he explained.

Watch as unmanned robots are sent into the Gulf of Mexico to collect data on the hurricane.

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Three of the saildrones will be used this year in tandem with underwater gliders to study the upper ocean and the air-sea interface.

The rapid intensification of hurricanes is a key factor that will be studied as part of the forecasts.

Jennie Lyons, director of public affairs at NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said that by bringing the saildrones and underwater gliders close to each other, NOAA can then capture measurements at the same place and time, painting a fuller picture of the dynamics that are known to influence hurricane strength.

According to NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory Director John Cortinas, “Storms that intensify rapidly can cause extensive damage and loss of life.” To better understand the atmospheric and oceanic processes that lead to the formation and intensification of these hurricanes, real-time observing systems are crucial.

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Category 4 Sam churned in the Atlantic Ocean in 2021, and a saildrone captured the first-ever video from inside a hurricane.

The wind measurements from the saildrone during Hurricane Sam were found to be consistent with those from satellites and a buoy, giving NOAA confidence in the saildrone’s ability to collect accurate data despite the extreme conditions of a major hurricane.

This year marks the first time that two saildrones will patrol the Gulf of Mexico in anticipation of hurricane season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects an above-average number of hurricanes for the 2022 season, with up to 21 named storms and three to six major hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that hurricanes pose a serious threat to coastal cities, both in terms of human life and the economy. About $54 billion in annual damage is attributed to hurricanes in the United States.

Air and humidity readings, wind speed and direction, water and salinity levels, sea surface temperatures, and wave height and period will all be transmitted to shore by the saildrones.

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Near real-time access to the data collected by the saildrones will be provided to NOAA researchers and forecasters, as stated by Foltz. The World Meteorological Organization’s global telecommunications center will receive it in near real-time and make it available to forecast centers around the world.

Leading meteorologists continue to predict a more active-than-usual hurricane season.

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In the meantime, however, the information “will not be ingested in into NOAA’s operational hurricane forecast models. Foltz remarked that the information was initially shared with forecasters at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center “for general awareness.”

According to him, NOAA is currently working on a method to incorporate saildrone data into operational forecast models. This task entails investigating how the new information could improve upon existing forecasts.

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This year, NOAA is using seven saildrones as part of a larger effort to learn more about hurricane intensification. In tandem with other tools, such as underwater gliders, surface drifters, profiling floats, and aerial assets, scientists will be able to learn more than ever before about the origins of deadly storms.

The article was co-written by Dinah Voyles Pulver of USA TODAY.

This article was published in the USA TODAY: Soon, for the sake of research, these seafaring “robot surfboards” will float into a hurricane.