Sailing into the eye of the storm

Courtesy Saildrone/NOAA

This is KPRC 2 Chief Meteorologist Frank Billingsley’s Weather or Not newsletter. To subscribe, visit

I blogged last year about Saildrones. You’ll recall that while Hurricane Hunters record storm data when flying directly into a storm, saildrones are at water level! Unmanned, they safely slice directly into any size tropical storm or hurricane measuring the same critical information as the Hunters are gathering above--wind speeds, wave heights, pressure location, temperatures and more. Here’s a look at the saildrone’s onboard sensors:

Just like dropsondes, the saildrone is capable of reading important storm data

Last year were the maiden voyages of five such saildrones, one of which went directly into Category 4 Hurricane Sam. Here is what Sam looked like from space:

Courtesy NOAA

And here is what inside the 40′ waves of Sam looked like from the saildrone:

Saildrone shot of 40 foot waves during 125mph winds in Hurricane Sam

Not to mention that the saildrone at the same time captured 125mph winds--a dangerous mission for any manned craft. You can see the VIDEO of the saildrone inside Hurricane Sam and I’m warning you it gets a little bumpy! A world first, this video really captures what any sailor and ship actually could get caught in during hurricane season! Just imagine those Spanish Galleons and other ships of centuries ago innocently besieged by these storms and you can see why they sank. And those that didn’t had a story to tell!

What’s exciting about this new surface hurricane hunter is that Saildrone has added two more to their calvary and those two of seven will be stationed in the Gulf of Mexico. Here’s the strategic outlay of where the saildrones will be stationed:

Two new saildrones have been added to the fleet

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is, of course, all aboard: “Storms that intensify rapidly can cause extensive damage and loss of life and real-time observing systems are crucial to better understanding the atmospheric and oceanic processes that lead to the formation and intensification of these hurricanes,” said John Cortinas, Director of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML).

Let’s hope we have no dangerous missions for these saildrones, but the truth is the season is just ramping up and the more information we can get about developing hurricanes, the better! Here is a full media release if you’d like to explore!


Email me and follow me on Facebook!

About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.