NASA Mission Sending Unmanned Aircraft Over Hurricanes

Beginning this summer and over the next several years, NASA will be sending unmanned aircraft dubbed “severe storm sentinels” above stormy skies to help researchers and forecasters uncover information about hurricane formation and intensity changes.

Several NASA centers are joining federal and university partners in the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) airborne mission targeted to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin.

NASA’s unmanned sentinels are autonomously flown. The NASA Global Hawk is well-suited for hurricane investigations because it can over-fly hurricanes at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet with flight durations of up to 28 hours – something piloted aircraft would find nearly impossible to do. Global Hawks were used in the agency’s 2010 Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) hurricane mission and the Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) environmental science mission.

“Hurricane intensity can be very hard to predict because of an insufficient understanding of how clouds and wind patterns within a storm interact with the storm’s environment. HS3 seeks to improve our understanding of these processes by taking advantage of the surveillance capabilities of the Global Hawk along with measurements from a suite of advanced instruments,” said Scott Braun, HS3 mission principal investigator and research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

 

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