Saturday, March 24, 2018
NOAA, Raytheon honored for flying unmanned aircraft to track hurricanes

NOAA, Raytheon honored for flying unmanned aircraft to track hurricanes

Government, industry team receives Aviation Week Laureate Award

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Raytheon Company received Aviation Week magazine’s prestigious Laureate award for Defense Dual Use at Aviation Week’s 61st Annual Laureate Awards on March 1. The industry/government team was recognized for using the Raytheon Coyote® Unmanned Aircraft System to track and model hurricane behavior.

Developed for the military, Coyote is a small, expendable unmanned aerial vehicle that is air- or ground-launched into environments too dangerous for manned aircraft. The system can fly for more than an hour and up to 50 miles from its host aircraft. 

In 2017, NOAA researchers deployed six Coyotes  to track and model Hurricane Maria. Launched from a NOAA WP-3D Orion hurricane hunter aircraft, the Coyotes flew directly into the storm, giving researchers an unprecedented view of Maria.

“We think unmanned technologies that explore dangerous and difficult to observe regions of the storm may improve our physical understanding, provide enhanced situational awareness and might ultimately  improve the accuracy of hurricane intensity forecasts in the future,” said Dr. Joseph Cione, a hurricane researcher at NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and principal investigator for  NOAA’s Coyote project. "The Coyotes we deployed in Hurricane Maria collected critical, continuous observations in the lower part of the hurricane, an area impossible to reach with manned aircraft.” 

Coyote flight

Coyote flight

NOAA hurricane scientists Joe Cione and Kelly Ryan peer out the window of NOAA's hurricane hunter after launching one of six Coyotes into Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Credit: NOAA

Traditional weather instruments are dropped from planes and capture only a snapshot of storm behavior, but Coyote's winged design enables it to linger and return to key areas of the hurricane to gather more data and transmit it near real time to researchers.  

“Raytheon technology is enabling hurricane hunters to better understand storm behavior. Our Coyotes are delivering vital information that may ultimately improve hurricane models, which can help save lives,” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon vice president of Advanced Missile Systems. “This Laureate award validates our financial investment along with the dedication and innovation of the Raytheon/NOAA team.”

Coyote was first deployed in 2014, when NOAA launched four of the UAVs into Hurricane Edouard, a Category 3 storm. Scientists on board the aircraft received meteorological data in both the eye of the storm and the surrounding eye wall.

For more information on the 2018 Aviation Week Laureate winners go online to Aviation Week.

For more information, please contact Monica Allen, director of public affairs for NOAA Research, at 301-734-1123 or

Previous Article Consumer, industrial products now a major urban air pollution source
Next Article NOAA Science Report highlights 2017 research accomplishments