Sunday, July 21, 2024

SailDrone’s hurricane-chasing drone makes it to Guinness Book of World Records

Saildrone, a California-based provider of ocean data using uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a new world record for the highest wind speed recorded by a USV.

The record was set by the Saildrone Explorer SD 1045, which measured a whopping 109.83 knots (126.4 mph) wind speed while passing through the eyewall of Category 4 Hurricane Sam in 2021. Interestingly, this record is going to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records for the first time in the 2024 edition.

SD 1045 is an Explorer-class SUV that is nearly 23 feet (7 meters) long and is equipped with a 16.4 feet (5 m) tall wing-sail, which provides forward propulsion. The Explorers used for extreme weather monitoring like the NOAA Atlantic Hurricane mission are equipped with a shorter, more robust “hurricane” wing, specially designed to withstand the conditions inside a tropical cyclone.

SD 1045 made global headlines when it spent 24 hours inside Hurricane Sam, providing the first-ever video footage from inside a major hurricane that was barreling across the Atlantic Ocean. Despite facing massive waves and sustained winds over 100 mph, SD 1045 survived intact and collected important data on the physical interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere that revealed new insights about hurricane intensification.

“This record is a testament to the unique endurance of the Saildrone platform. We are proud to have engineered a vehicle capable of operating in the most extreme weather conditions on earth to deliver data that can help to advance understanding of these powerful storms and protect our coastal communities,” said Saildrone Founder and CEO Richard Jenkins.

Following Hurricane Sam’s impact, SD 1045 sailed to Bermuda, where it was retrieved and shipped back to Saildrone headquarters in California. As part of the 2023 mission, the vehicle returns to duty this summer as one of 12 vehicles deployed. Currently, SD 1045 is stationed off the coast of South Carolina in a particularly complex area of the ocean, where shallow waters combined with the strong, warm currents of the Gulf Stream supply energy to passing storms.

The Atlantic Hurricane mission is part of ongoing NOAA research into how and why some relatively mild tropical storms rapidly intensify into major hurricanes, which is particularly destructive when it happens just before landfall. The data will also be archived by NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) and sent by NOAA to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) ‘s Global Telecommunication System (GTS), where it is available for the world’s major forecast centers.