Hurricane Hunters' new tool: Drones - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Hurricane Hunters' new tool: Drones

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MIAMI (FOX 13) -

You've probably seen them in your local hobby shop or in military videos. Now drones are ready to fly into one of the most powerful, destructive natural forces on Earth -- hurricanes.

The seven-pound drones will be dropped from a NOAA research aircraft, where they will then spread their wings to fly lengthy missions with key weather instruments on board.

To stay safe, Hurricane Hunter planes typically fly through storms near 10,000 feet. Unmanned drones fly at just a few hundred feet above the sea, eliminating the human and financial risks.

"It's designed to fly around for about 1.5 to two hours down near the sea surface and measures the temperature and pressure and humidity near the sea surface, where it's difficult and dangerous for the manned aircraft to fly," meteorologist Eric Uhlhorn said at NOAA's Hurricane Research Division in Miami.

Drones are entering new territory to try and solve a mystery of science.

"The physics inside the storm, there's a lot we still don't know, and we have to predict that accurately in order to predict the intensity," Uhlhorn continued. "What's really important is, one, the ocean temperature under the storm but also the atmosphere that overlies the ocean, which really controls how much energy would come out of the storm."

NOAA hopes to begin test-launching these new drones later this hurricane season.

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