Meet NOAA's new robotic hurricane hunters - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Meet NOAA's new robotic hurricane hunters

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

We've long known about the storied Hurricane Hunters who fly into storms to get valuable recon data, but for the first time, we're getting a look at some of the amazing unmanned devices that NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center team has at its disposal when tracking storms.

Tuesday, NOAA showed us the PUMA, which is a fixed-wing ultralight plane that can fly unmanned with a small camera to give aerial reconnaissance. 


We also looked at the Vertical Takeoff and Landing, or VTOL, Quadropcopter, which has the ability to take off and land vertically like a real helicopter and can show scientists what a disaster scene looks like, long before any rescue forces can get inside.


We also got a look inside the famed WP-3 Hurricane Hunter plane, which can carry more than 20 NOAA scientists, if needed, into the eye of the hurricane.  Once there, they'll unleash tube-shaped devices called dropsondes. The single-use probes, which cost about $650 each, relay live data back to the team. 

NOAA may have to drop dozens of those dropsondes into the eye to get a true read on what's happening with the wind speeds and directions the storm may be taking.

There is another larger device, similar to the dropsondes, which is also dropped into the eye, to measure the water temperatures and tells scientists if the storm is either gathering strength -- if the water is warm -- or if it's weakening, as the water cools.

NOAA also works with NASA to use their Global Hawk drone, which can fly into storms.  NOAA is also working on developing technology right now that will work similar to the dropsondes, but will float on top of the water as the storm approaches and given them an idea of how the water is interacting with the wind. 

It's all geared to gathering as much information about any storm as possible, so we can all be prepared as soon as possible.


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