Missile Drone Suicides Itself into Hurricanes
Hurricane hunters can now avoid trips directly into the eye of the storm with a missile-like drone that can handle the rough weather for them. When the drone has nearly run out of fuel, it can suicide itself into the hurricane's eye wall to gauge the storm's strength and perform one final act of science with its sacrifice.
The drone, called GALE, represents a one-shot, $30,000 device that could boost intensity predictions and aid in real-time tracking of storms for the National Hurricane Center, according to the Sun Sentinel. It can fly at 55 mph with its electronic motor and last for an hour and a half before it faces the final choice of robotic suicide .
If the drone ends up flying into the hurricane eye wall, it won't last very long. But the simple act of allowing the hurricane's winds to toss it around would allow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to collect more detailed information about the storm through the rotation. NOAA has developed the drone with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.
GALE first deploys by shooting out of a launch tube carried by a hurricane hunter aircraft. The missile-like body then spreads its wings and allows a ground-based drone operator to control its flight via satellite link.
None of the new drones will see action this year, but the first could undergo a flight test in the upcoming weeks. Two more are expected to get their first trial by hurricane in separate storms in 2012.