Sailboat Drones Launched in Gulf of Mexico to Study Hurricanes

If you see an unmanned, weird-looking sailboat in the Gulf of Mexico, you may be witnessing a tool used to improve hurricane preparedness.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the deployment of 7 surface sail drones to track the cyclones that could be heading our way.

These 7 drones work in conjunction with other technologies to better understand and predict hurricanes.

Drones like this have been used by NOAA in other areas in the past, but this is the first time they have been used in the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA has deployed drones in both the Atlantic and Caribbean Seas and is doing so again this year, but they’ve also launched a drone from St. Petersburg, Florida and one from Port Aransas, Texas. These two drones are to be used exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to NOAA’s website, scientists want to understand the dynamics that cause hurricanes to intensify rapidly (an increase of more than 35 miles per hour in 24 hours).

Photo by NOAA via Getty Images

Photo by NOAA via Getty Images

To better understand these dynamics, scientists need to measure existing conditions and changes in those conditions to see how they contribute to the rapid intensification of hurricanes.

Of course, sea conditions are not very hospitable to humans during a hurricane, so unmanned vehicles are the way to go.

Some of these sailing drones will work in tandem with underwater gliders to jointly measure ocean conditions.

The underwater gliders are thrown into the water and communicate with satellites. The gliders dive below the surface to measure various conditions and then resurface to transmit that data to the satellite.

The satellite then sends new commands to the gliders to program their next mission.

NOAA also uses flying drones and their famous Hurricane Hunter aircraft.

Let’s hope the addition of sailing drones in the Gulf of Mexico will help NOAA researchers learn more about hurricanes and how they behave so we can be better prepared in the future.

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