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NASA drone will join hurricane research missions this summer


A drone equipped with advanced Doppler radar and other weather sensors developed by NASA will fly high above hurricanes and tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean starting in August. This will be the third mission for which NASA has deployed the Global Hawk drone – the same unmanned aerial vehicle used by the military in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere – but the first time NASA’s Global Hawk has been used in hurricane research in the Atlantic. The drone won’t fly through hurricanes, as the well-known Hurricane Hunter aircraft do. But it will be equipped to deploy dropsondes into clouds to measure wind and other atmospheric conditions. The suite of new sensors will collect a wealth of data on the dynamic forces inside hurricanes, including how the storms respond to changing conditions at the ocean’s surface. The research could eventually help spot early warning indicators that a hurricane or tropical storm is about to intensify. The Global Hawk, which can fly as high as 60,000 feet for 28 hours at a time, will fly missions between August and October.