Saildrone makes autonomous ocean vessels to study the environment. This summer, the Silicon Valley startup sent five of its vessels directly into the path of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. While airplanes can fly through hurricanes, the screaming winds kick up such huge waves that attempting to sail boats right into them is something best to be avoided.
Saildrone’s vessels are uncrewed, and built to survive hurricane winds and huge waves. Scientists are excited that the vessels could improve our understanding of how storms intensify.
“If you’re in the center of a hurricane at those type of wind speeds, the ocean is just this big, frothy mess right there where the water begins and the air ends,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration director of engineering Chris Meinig told CNN Business. “I cannot imagine purposely flying a plane or a ship into a hurricane. I’d much rather send these robots in there and have them do their work.”
Saildrone has a partnership with NOAA to study how hurricanes form, including their rapid intensification. Hurricane Ida, which struck the Gulf Coast before traveling to the Northeast recently, grew from a Category 1 to Category 4 storm in less than 24 hours.
Saildrone’s vessels are 23-feet long and have four cameras on them. They measure wind as well as the temperature of the ocean and the air.