Hurricane Drones Start Flying in August

Everyone is very familiar now with military drones like the predator. Which rose in fame during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and now for missile strikes on al-Qaeda in remotes areas of the world. One of the other high altitude surveillance drones the Global Hawk is being adapted to do hurricane and severe weather research. One of the main issues with gathering weather data over the ocean in particular is we just don’t have much data to go on.

Unlike over land where numerous surface and upper air stations are available along with Doppler radar. The open ocean has almost no data except for a passing ship or sparsely spaced buoys. This was the main reason the Hurricane Hunters missions were started with manned C-130s.

Luckily we still have some good supplemental satellite data now a days but we still lack actual measurements of the environment around hurricanes. This data is crucial to not only forecasting the track but the intensity’s of hurricanes.


Well now we have the HS3 Global Hawk, or Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel.


Here’s the mission information courtesy of NASA.


Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel

Phase: Development

Start Date: August 2012

Program(s):Earth System Science Pathfinder

Investigation Homepage

Close to 100 million Americans now live within 50 miles of a coastline, thus exposing them to the potential destruction caused by a landfalling hurricane. While hurricane track prediction has improved in recent decades, improvements in hurricane intensity prediction have lagged, primarily as a result of a poor understanding of the processes involved in storm intensity change. The Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) is a five-year mission targeted to enhance our understanding of the processes that underlie hurricane intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin. HS3 will determine the extent to which either the environment or processes internal to the storm are key to intensity change.

The investigation objectives will be achieved using two Global Hawk Uninhabited Aerial Systems (UAS) with separate comprehensive environmental and over-storm payloads. The high Global Hawk flight altitudes allow overflights of most vertical storm convection and sampling of upper-tropospheric winds. Deployments from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and 30-hour flight durations will provide access to unrestricted air space, coverage of the entire Atlantic Ocean basin, and on-station times up to 10-24 hours depending on storm location. Deployments will be from mid-August to mid-September 2012-2014, with ten 30-hour flights per deployment, providing an unprecedented and comprehensive data set for approximately nine to twelve hurricanes.

HS3 is focused on the fundamental NASA Earth Science goal to “Study Earth from space to advance scientific understanding and meet societal needs” and NASA’s Research Objective to “enable improved predictive capability for weather and extreme weather events.” HS3 complements NASA’s Weather Focus Area and Hurricane Science Research Program.

Principal Investigator: Scott Braun
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

Project Manager: Marilyn Vasques
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Mission Manager:Anthony Guillory
Langley Research Center (LaRC), Hampton, VA

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