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Tiny Drones Deliver Bird's-Eye View Of Hurricanes

Tiny Drones Deliver Bird's-Eye View Of Hurricanes

Remote controlled aerial vehicle gathers facts on approaching storms.

Tiny Drones Deliver Bird's Eye Views Of Hurricanes

Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 15:45

Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

(Inside Science TV) -- When a major storm develops, we want to know where it will hit and how strong it will be. Currently, the best way to study a hurricane is to fly a plane near the storm to collect data. But, that approach can be costly, not to mention very dangerous.

"If you look at Katrina, we were completely wrong with the intensity of the hurricane." said Kamran Mohseni, an aerospace engineer at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

To track storms now, aircraft fly over the storms and drop a device that collects data as it falls through the clouds. But it's not a perfect way to collect information.

"You put people at risk. The airplane is at risk and it is extremely expensive, and if you crash, that's major news," said Mohseni.

Now, Mohseni and a group of aerospace engineers at the University of Florida have developed a solution to the problem. They've developed miniature drones that can hitch a ride on a hurricane, allowing the drones to travel with the hurricane-force winds right into, around or above a storm.

"Instead of fighting the hurricane, I use the hurricane," Mohseni explained.

The aerial vehicles can be launched and given directions from a computer hundreds of miles from the hurricane. Once inside the storm, the drone can either float freely through the storm, or be controlled by a computer to go exactly where the researchers want it to go.

The drones measure atmospheric pressure, wind, speed, humidity and temperature in real-time and their low cost means that hundreds on drones can be used to get more accurate readings.

"In the entire process, you are still measuring data and sending data," said Mohseni.


Get Inside the Science

Tiny Airplanes And Subs From University Of Florida Laboratory Could Be Next Hurricane Hunters

Kamran Mohseni, the University of Florida

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.