Did you know that boat drones are now being used to collect meteorological and environmental data during hurricanes? The Alameda, CA start-up company, Saildrone, sends autonomous robotic boats into hurricanes to collect data, which is then sent back to headquarters to be studied. Saildrone, in partnership with NOAA, is looking for information on how and why hurricanes intensify—sometimes very quickly. Hurricane Ida grew from a category 1 to a category 4 within 24 hours.
Research is focused on how energy and heat are exchanged between the ocean and atmosphere in the midst of a hurricane. Saildrone’s CEO Richard Jenkins told CNN, “The oceans are really driving our global weather and climate. Understanding the rate of change is going to really give us deep insights into our future and how we might need to change things.”
Saildrone’s unmanned vessels are 23 feet long, have four cameras on board, and measure ocean and air temperatures as well as wind speeds. The Silicon Valley company has made over 100 boats to date, for customers including NASA, U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, and various universities.