If you see an unmanned, funny-looking sailboat in the Gulf of Mexico, you might be witnessing a tool being used to improve hurricane preparedness.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the deployment of 7 surface saildrones to help track the cyclones that might be headed our way.

These 7 drones are working in conjunction with other forms of technology in an attempt to better understand and predict hurricanes.

Drones like these have been utilized by NOAA in the past in other areas, but this is the first time they have been deployed in the Gulf of Mexico.

NOAA has used drones in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and is doing so again this year, but they've also launched a drone from St. Petersburg, Florida, and one from Port Aransas, Texas. Those two drones are to be used exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to NOAA's website, scientists want to understand the dynamics in play that cause hurricanes to intensify rapidly (an increase of more than 35 mph within a 24-hour period).

Photo by NOAA via Getty Images
Photo by NOAA via Getty Images

To better understand that dynamic, scientists need to measure existing conditions and the changes in those conditions to figure out how they contribute to the rapid intensification of hurricanes.

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Of course, ocean conditions during a hurricane are not very hospitable to humans, so unmanned vehicles are the way to go.

Some of those saildrones will be working with underwater gliders to measure conditions in tandem in the oceans.

The underwater gliders are dropped into the water and communicate with satellites. The gliders dive below the surface to measure various conditions, then resurface to transmit that data to the satellite.

The satellite then transmits new commands to the gliders to program their next mission.

NOAA also uses aerial drones and their famous "Hurricane Hunter" aircraft.


Let's hope that the new addition of saildrones in the Gulf of Mexico helps researchers at NOAA to learn more about hurricanes and how they behave so that we can be more prepared in the future.

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