WPO is part of history being made in hurricane observing capabilities. Two projects funded by the WPO Observations Program are supporting NOAA’s hurricane observing mission, which is being recognized in the 2024 Guinness World Records Book. The mission by NOAA and partners has set two new world records: 1) longest endurance flight inside a tropical cyclone by an uncrewed aircraft and 2) highest wind speed recorded by an uncrewed surface vehicle.
Altius-600, Uncrewed Aircraft Sets Record During Hurricane Ian
The longest endurance flight inside a tropical cyclone by an uncrewed aircraft occurred on September 28, 2022 during Hurricane Ian. The Altius-600, an uncrewed aircraft, was deployed from NOAA’s P-3 Hurricane Hunter aircraft into the Category 5 hurricane. It spread its 8-foot long wings to fly a record 102 minutes inside the eye of Hurricane Ian.
During its flight, the Altius-600 recorded wind speeds of 216 mph and was able to communicate to the Hurricane Hunter aircraft from up to 135 miles away. The uncrewed aircraft collected key hurricane data that was transmitted to scientists, forecasters, and NOAA’s operational centers in near real-time.
The WPO Observations Program funded the project ‘Employing Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems to Improve Situational Awareness and Operational Physics Routines Used to Predict Tropical Cyclone Structure and Intensity’ to support the overall accomplishment by NOAA to observe hurricanes using uncrewed aircraft systems.
Saildrone Measures Record Wind Speeds Inside Hurricane Sam
The highest wind speed recorded by an uncrewed surface vehicle was measured during Hurricane Sam, a Category 4 hurricane, on September 30, 2021. The record-setting wind speed of 126.4 miles per hour was measured by a 23-foot long Saildrone.
The Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 is a bright-colored orange wind and solar-powered robot that collects weather data and can live stream video. During the record-setting event, the saildrone’s onboard camera captured a 28-second live stream providing a first look inside a hurricane at the surface with 50-foot waves and a wind speed of 125-mph at the time of the video.
The project ‘Autonomous Measurements of Air-Sea Interaction from Saildrones for Improved Hurricane Intensity Prediction’ funded by the WPO Observations Program helped contribute to the entire NOAA Saildrone hurricane observing mission to achieve this incredible feat!
“We are thrilled to see these two great accomplishments by NOAA and our partner scientists, engineers and pilots in this year’s Guinness World Records,” said Steve Thur, Ph.D., NOAA assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. “These new records demonstrate how research can transform what we know about the world and how it can lead to new tools and data to protect lives and property.”