(NEXSTAR) – An ocean-going unmanned ship has captured a sea-level view of conditions inside a major hurricane for the first time.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Saildrone Inc. have been operating a fleet of five “hurricane” saildrones in the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season, gathering data to help understand the monster storms.
One of them, named SD 1045, battled 50-foot waves and winds of over 120 mph to collect critical data from Hurricane Sam, according to NOAA.
The drone was equipped with a specially designed “hurricane wing,” enabling it to operate in extreme wind conditions.
Video from inside the hurricane shows the monster waves generated by Hurricane Sam as the drone is tossed by the intense conditions.
A second clip shows the drone’s location inside the storm as it records.
The saildrones provide data directly to NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.
“Using data collected by saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes,” said Greg Foltz, a NOAA scientist. “Rapid intensification, when hurricane winds strengthen in a matter of hours, is a serious threat to coastal communities. New data from saildrones and other uncrewed systems that NOAA is using will help us better predict the forces that drive hurricanes and be able to warn communities earlier.”
While not direct a threat to the U.S., Hurricane Sam is expected to remain a major hurricane for several more days, according to the National Hurricane Center. Strong waves churned up by the storm are expected to reach the U.S. coast this weekend, potentially causing life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.