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Mon, Jun 04, 2012

NASA Sending Unmanned Aircraft Over Hurricanes This Year

Military UAV Finds New Application As Storm Chaser

Starting this summer and continuing over the next few years, NASA will be launching UAVs designated "severe storm sentinels" above storms to assist weather researchers and forecasters in uncovering information regarding hurricane formation.

NASA centers will be corroborating with federal and university partners in the mission designated Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3). This airborne mission will investigate hurricane formation and the processes that result in changes in storm intensity over the Atlantic Ocean. The Global Hawk operated by NASA is ideally suited for the mission, as it can fly over a hurricane at FL60 and above while providing mission endurance up to 28 hours. The UAV was used in NASA's Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) mission in 2010, and the Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac) environmental science mission.

Scott Braun, HS3 mission principal investigator said "Hurricane intensity can be very hard to predict because of an insufficient understanding of how clouds and wind patterns within a storm interact with the storm’s environment. HS3 seeks to improve our understanding of these processes by taking advantage of the surveillance capabilities of the Global Hawk along with measurements from a suite of advanced instruments."

NASA reports that the HS3 mission will employ two Global Hawk aircraft and six different weather data instruments flying from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. "One aircraft will sample the environment of storms while the other will measure eyewall and rainband winds and precipitation" Braun added.

HS3 marks the first time that NASA's Global Hawks will deploy away from Dryden for a mission. This may be the beginning of an era in which they are operated regularly from the Wallops facility.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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