Seafaring Saildrone captures storm-induced wave action video inside Category 4 Hurricane Fiona


Saildrone, Inc. and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have released video footage taken by a Saildrone unmanned surface vehicle (USV) of Hurricane Fiona, a Category 4 hurricane sweeping the Atlantic Ocean.

The Saildrone Explorer SD 1078 was steered into the middle of Hurricane Fiona, which is currently on a northbound path in the Atlantic Ocean and is expected to hit Bermuda on Thursday evening and the Canadian province of Nova Scotia on Friday. Hurricane Fiona is the first Category 4 storm of the 2022 season. SD 1078 battles 50-foot waves and winds in excess of 100 mph to gather important scientific data, while giving us a whole new look at one of the most destructive forces of the earth.

Within the storm, SD 1078 is sailing at sustained speeds in excess of 9 miles per hour. In one moment, it reached a top speed of 39.7 mph while surfing down a massive wave. The vehicle is currently 315 nm southwest of Bermuda.

Split Screen Hurricane Fiona SD 1078 9-22 14-11.mp4

SD 1078 is one of seven “hurricane” sailing drones deployed in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico during this hurricane season, collecting data 24/7 to understand the physical processes of hurricanes. This knowledge is critical to improving storm forecasting and is expected to reduce loss of life by enabling better preparedness in coastal communities.

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“Saildrone once again demonstrates its ability to provide critical ocean data even under the most extreme weather conditions. Hurricane Fiona strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane just before hitting Puerto Rico, causing significant damage and fatality,” said Richard Jenkins, founder and CEO of Saildrone. “The data that Saildrone vehicles will collect will help the scientific community better understand the rapid intensification and give people living in our coastal communities more time to prepare.”

Hurricane Fiona SD 1078 9-22 14-11 Camera 3.mp4

Saildrone is providing data directly to NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Saildrone’s partners on this mission.
The seven sailing drones are part of a larger NOAA effort to understand hurricane intensification. NOAA also has underwater gliders, surface drifters, profile floats, and aircraft to work together to provide deeper insights than ever into hurricane development. NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft and weather buoys collect a range of operational weather observations essential to hurricane forecasting.

“Unmanned aerial, sea-surface, and underwater and aircraft systems have the potential to transform the way NOAA accomplishes its mission to better understand the environment.”

Captain Philip Hall, director of NOAA’s Unmanned Systems Operations Center

“Airborne, sea-surface, and underwater and aircraft unmanned systems have the potential to transform the way NOAA accomplishes its mission to better understand the environment,” said Capt. Philip Hall, director of the Operations Center for Unmanned Systems NOAA’s systems provide funding for the Saildrone effort. “These exciting new technologies provide NOAA with another valuable tool to collect data in places we can’t get with other observing systems.”

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SD 1078 is the fourth Saildrone UPS to deal with Hurricane Fiona. It was still a tropical storm when it passed SD 1083, stationed 400 nautical miles east of Montserrat; The vehicle measured wind speeds in excess of 40 miles per hour. The storm continued its trajectory due west and had strengthened to a Category 1 when it passed over SD 1031, stationed south of Puerto Rico where Fiona first made landfall. The craft recorded waves up to 46 feet high and winds in excess of 70 mph, abruptly dropping to as low as 10 mph when SD 1031 was in the eye of the storm. Inside the eye, SD 1031 recorded a minimum central pressure of 986 mb. Stationed north of Puerto Rico, SD 1040 recorded winds in excess of 60 mph and 40-foot waves at the edge of the storm. Data collected from the multiple Saildrones interacting with Hurricane Fiona will provide invaluable information to better understand the formation of these deadly weather systems.

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This is the second video footage Saildrone has released from inside a major hurricane: Last year, SD 1045 spent 24 hours inside Category 4 Hurricane Sam, returning high definition video and near real-time imagery.

2022 Saildrone Atlantic Hurricane Areas of Operation.jpg

Map with rough outlines of the areas of operation during the Atlantic Hurricane mission 2022. A sailing drone is assigned to each area of ​​operation.

About Saildrone

Saildrone is a small US company that designs, manufactures and operates a fleet of the world’s most capable, proven and reliable unmanned ground vehicles. Powered primarily by wind and solar, Saildrone UPSs have a minimal carbon footprint and are equipped with advanced sensors and ML technology to provide vital data and information from any ocean, any time of the year. Solutions include maritime domain awareness, ocean data and ocean mapping. Saildrone’s operations and data collection services are encrypted and secure.

About NOAA

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict our changing environment from the deep sea to outer space and to manage and conserve America’s coastal and marine resources. See how NOAA science, services and governance benefit your community: visit noaa.gov for our latest news and features, and join us on social media.

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