Saildrone Explorer SD 1078 was in the best position to capture never-before-seen shots of inside Fiona, the first Category 4 hurricane of the year, with waves approaching 50 feet and winds in excess of 100 mph on Thursday.
The vehicle was directed to Fiona as the storm headed north into the Atlantic Ocean.
“[Saildrones are] It gives us a whole new view of one of Earth’s most destructive forces,” Seldron said in a press release.
Four gliders reacted to the storm, starting Sunday evening when it was still a tropical storm east of Montserrat. The storm then intensified into a Category 1 hurricane, hitting Selderon centered south of Puerto Rico, where Fiona made landfall for the first time. Saildrone sent its vehicles at the start of hurricane season to collect important scientific data in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
This is the second year that Saildrone has deployed hurricane-equipped units to the Atlantic with the goal of getting measurements and footage as close to the eye of the hurricane as possible. The company manufactures and designs autonomous surface vehicles that collect ocean data to deepen understanding of hurricanes, map the ocean floor and track diverse ecosystems below the surface.
The California-based company boasts that its units have sailed more than 800.00 nautical miles and have spent more than 18,000 days at sea collecting climate and ocean map data.
“Saildrone is once again proving its ability to provide critical ocean data in the most severe weather. Richard Jenkins, founder and CEO of Saildrone, said, “Hurricane Fiona intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane just before it hit Puerto Rico, causing damage great loss of life.”
“The data collected by Saildrone compounds will help the scientific community better understand rapid intensification, giving people living in our coastal communities more time to prepare.”
In 2021, scientists from Saildrone and NOAA drove Saildrone United 1045 to a Category 4 toxic hurricane and collected the first-ever video from inside the hurricane.
The partnership between NOAA and Saildrone is part of a larger effort to understand the development of hurricanes and how they intensify.
“Unmanned systems in the air, on the surface of the ocean, aircraft systems and underwater have the potential to change how NOAA meets its mission to better understand the environment,” said Captain Philip Hall, director of NOAA’s Center for Unmanned Systems Operations.
NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft and weather buoys collect operational weather observations necessary for hurricane forecasts.
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