On September 22, 2022, an unmanned surface vehicle sailed into the path of Hurricane Fiona south of Bermuda, capturing video of the Category 4 storm.

The Explorer SD 1078 developed by Saildrone Inc. is one of seven hurricane saildrones used by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to improve the agency’s understanding of rapid intensification — when a tropical cyclone’s maximum sustained winds increase by at least 35 mph in a 24 hour period.

While inside the storm, Explorer SD 1078 sailed at 9 mph and reached a peak speed of 39.7 mph as it surfed a huge wave. The vessel encountered 50 ft waves and winds measuring over 100 mph to collect information about the storm. The data will be used by NOAA to advance forecasting accuracy and better prepare coastal communities for future natural disasters.

The 23 ft long craft combines wind-powered propulsion technology and solar-powered meteorological and oceanographic sensors to perform autonomous long-range data collection missions in the harshest ocean environments.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com