World’s first ocean drones to track real-time data in middle of hurricanes

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Five little orange warriors known as ‘Saildrones’ will set off to sea this summer. Their mission? To sail directly into the paths of hurricanes all in an effort to gather data that will hopefully save lives and infrastructure along our coast.

Vice President of Ocean Data for Saildrone Andy Ziegwied said, “That data is very important, it’s never been collected before from the sea surface, so it’s quite novel.”

It’s complex data that measures the exchange of energy between a hurricane and the ocean, which oceanographer for NOAA Greg Foltz says is incredibly difficult to get. “Very rare to have. So if we can get those measurements, that’ll be like a research objective and if we can understand this energy and this momentum exchange better, that can go into the models, help make the models better.”

The drones will monitor heat, wind speeds, water pressure, and other metrics and communicate them to scientists as the storm is happening. Foltz explained the process, “So we’ll collect the data and it’ll be transferred in real-time satellites and back to land. And this will go into the forecast centers around the world where they predict hurricane intensity and their tracks.”

Foltz said this can help predict how strong hurricanes will be, and also how quickly they’ll form, so that they can notify people to evacuate sooner. Given our area’s history of hurricanes, especially in these past couple years, Ziegwied says it’s very likely that the drones will directly help people on our coastline. “They could very much be gathering data from a hurricane that does touch ground in North Carolina.”

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