Just in time for the peak hurricane season and for the arrival of Hurricane Ingrid and Tropical Storm Manuel along the Mexico coast, NASA has launched repurposed government drones to keep track of hurricane patterns, according to redOrbit on Sept. 16.
The drones, which were military spy planes that have been converted into machines, will collect data on storms and weather patterns that could become major storms in the following weeks or months. The drones, which are able to fly unmanned for 30 hours at a time, will allow meteorologists to gain insight to hurricane weather patterns that has never before been available. Previous research methods have included getting images of storms at various times with a manned plane or through a satellite image.
Red Orbit cites that 100 million people live within 50 miles of a coast, so this data is aimed at helping them. By further researching hurricanes, meteorologists hope to get better information on when alert authorities to make major decisions relating to the storms.
NPR notes that one of the main objectives of the drones this year is to study the effect of the Saharan Air Layer, which is a layer of dusty, hot air that comes off the Sahara every so foten. The report notes that when studying Hurricane Nadine last year, the storm may have been able to regain strength due to the warm core of the storm. In the case of the Saharan Air Layer, perhaps this dry air is contributing to the long-standing nature of some hurricanes that can turn into super storms.
The drones will not just be taking photo or video. Each drone has a laser to study the composition of clouds, a microwave system to scan the 'heart' of a storm and they will be able to determine humidity, atmospheric pressure and location.
The drones will collect information for three Atlantic hurricane seasons.