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Researchers share drone footage of what it's like inside Hurricane Sam

NOAA and Saildrone Inc. are piloting five specially designed saildrones in the Atlantic Ocean to gather data around the clock to help understand the physical processes of hurricanes.
NOAA and Saildrone Inc. are piloting five specially designed saildrones in the Atlantic Ocean to gather data around the clock to help understand the physical processes of hurricanes.

Researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have dispatched a surface drone inside Hurricane Sam as it barrels toward the Caribbean, giving scientists a new perspective of what it's like inside such a storm.

The video and images shared were the first of their kind gathered by an "uncrewed surface vehicle" from inside a major hurricane as it moved across the Atlantic Ocean.

The onboard camera shows eerily gray skies and turbulent ocean waters. Massive waves swing the camera up and down as it careens across the middle of the open ocean. NOAA says the device is battling 50-foot waves and winds of over 120 mph.

NOAA dispatched the Saildrone Explorer SD 1045, a specially designed surface drone, into the midst of the Category 4 storm this week with the aim of providing scientists with a better understanding of hurricanes.

The data collected from the drone should give researchers new insights into how large and destructive tropical cyclones grow and intensify, all with the purpose of improving storm forecasting. Information gained from this research can help reduce loss of life during serious storms and better prepare coastal communities, NOAA said.

"Using data collected by saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes," Greg Foltz, a NOAA scientist said in a statement. "Rapid intensification, when hurricane winds strengthen in a matter of hours, is a serious threat to coastal communities. New data from saildrones and other uncrewed systems that NOAA is using will help us better predict the forces that drive hurricanes and be able to warn communities earlier."

The U.S. has been hit with several hurricanes during the very active 2021 season that have caused major damage, long-term power outages and massive flooding.

The drone is built to survive a chaotic ride

The Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 is able to stand up to punishing winds and waves thanks to its special "hurricane wing," according to NOAA.

It's also one of a fleet of five "hurricane" surface drones that have been operating in the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season, gathering data nonstop.

A drone sailed into Hurricane Sam and sent back this image.
/ Saildrone
A drone sailed into Hurricane Sam and sent back this image.

The devices were also used to study the Arctic and Southern oceans before being used in hurricanes, according to Richard Jenkins, Saildrone Inc. founder and CEO.

Sam won't hit the mainland U.S.

Hurricane Sam might have battered the drone out on the open ocean, but predictions indicate the storm will bypass the East Coast of the U.S.

The storm does pose a threat to the Caribbean this weekend, according to forecasts issued early Friday.

The National Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm warning for Bermuda as the forecast track of Hurricane Sam has it passing east of Bermuda early Saturday.

Ocean swells generated by Sam are still likely to impact the northern Leeward Islands and the Greater Antilles, including Puerto Rico, during the next few days.

Late Friday, Bermuda and the Bahamas will start to experience those potentially life-threatening swells, which will then spread to the U.S. East Coast by the weekend.

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