High-tech hurricane tracking system uses drones above and below water

Inside a building along the St. Pete waterfront, scientists examine data that could save lives during a hurricane.

NOAA Director John Cortinas said his organization is partnering with Saildrone to launch a mission that will allow them to see parts of hurricanes normally invisible to humans.

This is the second time NOAA and Saildrone have partnered on a hurricane mission.

Saildrone sends unmanned planes and watercraft to get simultaneous views above and below the water.

Drones read storm surge levels, wind speed, water temperature and currents to help scientists better understand how the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico transfers energy to the storm .

Saildrone deployed unmanned planes and craft to monitor hurricanes

“It certainly helps in understanding how storms evolve. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to collect data at that interface, and that’s very important because that’s where energy transfer helps to happen to help to fuel these storms,” ​​Cortinas said.

Ten years ago, a tropical system had to be online with a sensor in the ocean to get similar readings. Now drones can maneuver remotely in the eye of a storm.

Last year, during Hurricane Sam, a Category 4 storm, a drone was able to fly into the system’s eye and provided never-before-seen imagery and data.

The drone survived the storm, in good condition, with winds of up to 140 miles per hour.

Seven Saildrone machines will leave downtown St. Pete and join a lineup of underwater gliders and surface dinghies, giving the most advanced information about future storms.