Drone to be used to forecast hurricanes

Oct. 1, 2011 at 10:57 AM
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MIAMI, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The National Hurricane Center will fly a small unmanned aircraft into hurricanes next year to improve tropical storm forecasting.

The aircraft, called GALE, is shot into a storm where it gathers wind speed and other atmospheric data, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Friday.

"It gives us a better understanding of how the ocean is interacting with the atmosphere," said Joe Cione, project leader with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Right now, the models are guessing at what's going on down there."

The drone is 3 feet long, weighs 8 pounds and costs $30,000.

GALE flies at about 55 miles per hour and can stay in the air for about 1.5 hours before falling into the ocean.

"We're basically hoping this thing will last as long as it can. The wind forces will take over and cause it to rotate. But that's exactly what we want," said Massood Towhidnejad, a professor of software engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

The first flight test of the drone will happen in the coming weeks. Two will be flown into separate hurricanes next year.

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