You don’t have many options if you’re curious about what the action looks like at the center of a Category 4 hurricane in the middle of the ocean. Your best bet is to make a series of bad choices out at sea and hope you live through a Wolf of Wall Street adventure. A company called Saildrone is helping researchers do the next best thing though, recording data and video when the ocean is at its most destructive. (Just for reference, a “saildrone is a wind and solar-powered unmanned surface vehicle (USV) capable of up to 12-month data collection missions on the open ocean.”)
The company teamed up with researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently and sent one of their mini-saildrones about 360 miles southeast of Bermuda to record the waves, wind, rain, and all-around wrath of Hurricane Fiona. The goal was to get the drones as close to the eye of a hurricane as possible, so they sent four separate machines into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean when it was still just a tropical storm over the weekend, eventually graduating to a Category 1 hurricane. Saildrone Explorer SD 1078 brought back footage of all the madness, with waves measured as big as 50 feet and winds over 100 mph.
Incredible photo and significant wave height time series from Saildrone in Hurricane Fiona. Significant wave heights near 50 ft were recorded. pic.twitter.com/l6PQmgNoNm