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Inside A Cat-4 Hurricane

We've all marveled at NOAA's birds-eye images of tightly spun hurricanes, but have you ever wondered how it looks on the roiling seas?

Hurricane Sam Cat-4

A 23-foot Saildrone Explorer, an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) used for research, collected live video in September of Category 4 Hurricane Sam churning in the Atlantic. At the time, the saildrone was experiencing winds gusting over 120 mph and waves up to 50 feet. Saildrone claims it's the first video footage of conditions inside a Category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean.

Unfortunately, Saildrones are not equipped with microphones, but take a look at 30 seconds of Neptune's fury.

By sailing into the eye of a hurricane, Saildrone is gathering data that will deepen understanding of powerful storms, says Richard Jenkins, Saildrone founder and CEO. "After conquering the Arctic and the Southern Ocean, hurricanes were the last frontier for Saildrone survivability," he said of the USV.

Hurricane wing testing

Predominantly powered by wind and solar, the Saildrone's "hurricane wing" enables it to operate in extreme wind conditions. As part of the mission, a partnership between Saildrone and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), five vehicles were deployed to collect data immediately before and during a hurricane.

Mission portal POV split screen

"Using data collected by Saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes," says Greg Foltz, a NOAA scientist. "New data from Saildrones and other uncrewed systems NOAA is using will help us better predict the forces that drive hurricanes and be able to warn communities earlier."

The vehicles were deployed in June from Jacksonville, Florida, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They are stationed in five key areas of the Atlantic Ocean that have historically seen a large number of storms.

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Rich Armstrong

Senior Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A journalist by training, BoatUS Magazine Senior Editor Rich Armstrong has worked in TV news, and at several newspapers, then spent 18 years as a top editor at other boating publications. He’s built a stellar reputation in the marine industry as one of the most thorough reporters in our business. At BoatUS Magazine, Rich handles everything from boat and product innovation and late-breaking news, to compelling feature stories, boat reviews, and features on people and places. The New Jersey shore and lakes of lower New York defined Rich's childhood. But when he bought a 21-foot Four Winns deck boat and introduced his young family to the Connecticut River, his love for the world of boats flourished from there.