Saildrones still have work to do even after the end of hurricane season

Unmanned boats provided amazing video from inside Category 4 Hurricane Sam this year

ALAMEDA, Calif. – After providing incredible video from inside a monster storm this year, saildrones still have plenty of work to do after the end of hurricane season.

The unmanned scientific vehicles sailed into Category 4 Hurricane Sam in September. In addition to providing jaw-dropping video of massive waves driven by 120 mph winds, the drone recorded valuable data from inside the storm.

Brian Connon, vice president of Saildrone, said scientists will use that data to help refine future intensity forecasts for hurricanes.

"That's really what we're shooting for here," Connon told FOX Weather Correspondent Steve Bender on Friday. "We're pretty good with tracks. Over the last five or 10 years, we have gotten really good at forecasting that track five or seven days out. We haven't done as well with the intensity."

Even though hurricane season ended on Nov. 30, the mission for saildrones continues. This time, the unmanned boats are headed to one of the places where scientists have had big challenges making observations – the Gulf Stream.

The Gulf Stream is a powerful ocean current that carries warm water from the tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean into the Gulf of Mexico. The stream curves around Cuba and the Florida Peninsula before heading north along the East Coast of the U.S. It eventually deposits that warm water into the northern stretches of the Atlantic Ocean. The current plays a big role in the weather not only in the U.S., but also in Europe.

According to Saildrone, the wind-and-solar-powered USVs will be deployed from Rhode Island on Dec. 9 and will spend a year studying the Gulf Stream. The goal is to collect real-time data about not only weather and water conditions, but also how the air and ocean exchange heat and carbon.


"The location of the Gulf Stream and the sharp temperature differences on either side can have a big impact on weather forecasts and climate predictions," said Philip Browne, a research scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. "We are excited to be able to target saildrones to collect data from this physically and scientifically challenging region and begin exploiting the information they will provide to help improve our earth system approach to forecasting."

Analysis of the data should be complete by late summer 2023, according to Saildrone.