Unmanned aircraft to study hurricanes

June 1, 2012 at 6:59 PM
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HAMPTON, Va., June 1 (UPI) -- Unmanned aircraft will be used this summer to investigate hurricane formation and intensity change, U.S. space officials said.

NASA said the drones, dubbed "severe storm sentinels," will be part of the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel airborne mission. HS3 will investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin.

The NASA Global Hawk can over-fly hurricanes at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet with flight durations of up to 28 hours, which would be nearly impossible for a piloted aircraft, the space agency said.

HS3 will use two Global Hawk aircraft and six different instruments this summer, flying from a base of operations at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

One aircraft will sample the environment of storms while the other will measure eyewall and rainband winds and precipitation, NASA scientists said Friday. The 2012 mission will run from late August through early October.

NASA said the aircraft will deploy to Wallops Flight Facility from their home base at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

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