A new breed of storm chasers is ready for launch. US researchers have begun sending unmanned aerial drones into the hearts of hurricanes. While smaller and less sophisticated than the pilotless craft that fly over war zones, these remote-controlled planes can rough it in the 70-mile-per-hour winds of a Caribbean cyclone and send back clues about how the tempests form and function. The 28-pound graphite craft is packed with a satellite antenna, camera, and several kinds of weather sensors.
Late last year, a drone from aviation company Aerosonde navigated into hurricane Noel. During the 17-hour flight – a record at the time – the plane busted into the storm’s eye and gathered information about how it draws energy from the ocean.
The piloting teams usually fly the drones out of Barbados – they’re not allowed to launch them from American shores because aviation officials worry the craft could imperil other planes.
More information can be found at Aerosonde.com.