The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are testing drones designed to fly into the centre of hurricanes to gather valuable data...
Currently, the NOAA use planes known as Hurricane Hunters to gather information from the middle of severe storms and hurricanes. Data from a storm's centre helps forecasters understand and predict hurricanes, allowing people in vulnerable areas to prepare ahead of time. Usually Hurricane Hunters drop packages of sensors known as dropsondes. Unfortunately though, this is far from ideal. The problem with dropping small packages into the middle of a hurricane is that the strong winds and powerful currents make it difficult to know where the sensors will end up.
Because forecasters really need to know what's going on in the middle of the storm, a better solution is needed. Here is where drones come in handy. Because they are smaller than normal planes and able to fly at lower altitudes, they can be launched off the bottom of Hurricane Hunting planes when close to the centre of the storm.
Tests earlier this month showed that the Coyote is capable of gathering data from over 50 miles away from the plane, and is now also equipped with infra-red imaging to measure sea surface temperatures.
The Coyote is probably the first of many autonomous drones which will help provide accurate forecasting. And with more real-world tests due later this year, let's hope that it won't be too long before they're soaring through hurricanes to help prepare vulnerable areas.