No longer content to study hurricane patterns from afar, NASA launches a month-long Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission using UAVs. Researchers will use two Northrop Grumman-designed Global Hawk UAVs to retrieve direct measurements of variables such as temperature and humidity as well as give them a view of real-time  weather systems.

Both Global Hawks are remotely controlled by ground-based pilots, can reach altitudes of over 60,000 feet and are manufactured with light-weight durable composite wings, nacelles and tail, which allow them to stay aloft for up to 28 hours. However, the mission of each aircraft is different in scope. The first UAV has already flown from Edwards Air Force Base in California to ANSA’s Wollops flight Facility in Virginia. Equipped with three instruments to sample the environment surrounding hurricanes, it spent ten hours over the Atlantic Ocean gathering date on Hurricane Leslie and Tropical Storm Nadine. The second aircraft, due to arrive in two weeks, will have different instruments designed to study the interior of hurricanes and developing storms.

UAVS are increasingly being used in military operations as well as environmental research. Interested in other ways UAVs are being used to monitor the environment, read about researchers at the University of Kansas monitoring global climate change.