Hurricane Fiona is the strongest storm of the Atlantic basin season, and thanks to a Saildrone traveling through the heart of the cyclone, humans now have video evidence of what takes place inside one of Mother Nature’s most powerful forces.
On Thursday a Saildrone about 300 miles southwest of Bermuda took video of seas approaching 50 feet while winds gusted to around 100 mph.
The seas looked more like mountains as the Saildrone eerily climbed each wave and traveled down into a crevice before riding another.
“Saildrone is once again demonstrating its ability to provide critical ocean data in the most extreme weather conditions. Hurricane Fiona intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane just before hitting Puerto Rico, causing significant damage and loss of life,” Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder and CEO said in a statement. “The data Saildrone vehicles are gathering will help the science community better understand rapid intensification, giving people living in our coastal communities more time to prepare.”
The automated floating weather stations are remote-controlled and built to withstand the very worst impacts of Mother Nature.
The company said the drone in Fiona is traveling through the storm at about 9 mph, but when it reaches the top of a wave and surfs its way down, the drone’s forward speed can reach 40 mph.
At least three other Saildrones have intercepted the storm as it made its way through the Caribbean and into the southwest Atlantic Ocean.
The powerful hurricane is not the first time a Saildrone has intercepted a Category 4 storm. In 2021, a vehicle was steered into the eyewall of Hurricane Sam.
The drone captured seas of 50 feet and winds estimated to be around 140 mph.
The goal of collecting data is to better understand storm intensity and ocean surges.
“Uncrewed systems in the air, on the ocean surface, and underwater have the potential to transform how NOAA meets its mission to better understand the environment,” Capt. Philip Hall, director of NOAA’s Uncrewed Systems Operations Center said in a statement. “These exciting emerging technologies provide NOAA with another valuable tool that can collect data in places we can’t get to with other observing systems.”