UPDATED Sept. 18, 2014
NOAA hurricane hunters entered a new chapter in the use of unmanned aircraft systems the week of Sept. 15 when scientists aboard the aircraft launched unmanned aircraft directly into Hurricane Edouard.
On Thursday, Sept. 18, scientists reported successfully receiving weather data from the Coyote unmanned aircraft system.
"Data from these new and promising technologies have yet to be analyzed but are expected to provide unique and potentially groundbreaking insights into a critical region of the storm environment that is typically difficult to observe in sufficient detail," said Joe Cione, NOAA hurricane researcher and principal investigator on the project.
The Coyote unmanned aircraft is the first unmanned aircraft deployed directly inside a hurricane from NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft.
The goal of the Coyote is to collect temperature, pressure and wind observations below 3,000 feet, where manned aircraft cannot fly safely.
Joe Cione of NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab is leading the research project with the Coyote unmanned aircraft. The aircraft were launched from the NOAA Hurricane Hunter manned aircraft. (NOAA)
Because the Coyote can fly near the surface of the ocean where warm ocean water fuels a hurricane, it will help provide vital information needed to better understand and predict hurricane intensity. With its ability to fly for up to two hours in this area, the Coyote will potentially offer more complete data than possible with traditional air-deployed weather instruments, called dropsondes.
Post-Hurricane Sandy federal funding, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, provided NOAA with the funding to test this new technology in hopes of better understanding and evaluating how storms evolve and intensify and ultimately improving forecasts. The Coyote project is one of a number of research projects funded by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act to improve weather forecasting and our nation's ability to better prepare, respond and recover from severe weather.
The Coyote was originally designed for use by the Navy for maritime surveillance and NOAA is now putting it to use to improve scientific information on hurricanes. NOAA’s research with the Coyote will test how well it handles severe winds and the harsh hurricane environment.
Scientists aboard NOAA's P-3 Orion aircraft are deploying the seven-pound unmanned aircraft from a free fall chute in the belly of the plane. The Coyote is designed to then open its six-foot wingspan and fly through the storm. It can be controlled from miles away, but will be piloted by scientists onboard the P-3s. Its relative lightweight design requires the Coyote to fly with the wind currents, but it will be directed up, down, and sideways to measure the storm’s inner core and storm activity at the lowest altitudes.
NOAA conducted a test-launch of the coyote from the NOAA P-3 aircraft in early September. That successful flight demonstrated its ability to exit the aircraft, spread its wings, execute flight maneuvers at the command of a pilot on the P-3, collect and transmit meteorological observations back to the P-3.
In addition to providing support for testing new technologies, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 also provided funding to assess the value of adding data from these and other instruments to hurricane forecast models. Scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab will evaluate how such observations can be used to improve forecasts of where a hurricane tracks and when it intensifies.
For more information, please contact Monica Allen, director of public affairs at NOAA Research at 301-734-1123 or my email at email@example.com