NOAA testing new drone technology to hunt hurricanes

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hurricane Hunters in Lakeland are testing a new generation of hurricane-hunting, remote-controlled aircraft.

The Altius 600, built by a Georgia-based aerospace company, weighs just 25 pounds. Yet, scientists say it’s designed to fly into some of the planet’s most destructive weather.

NOAA says the new uncrewed technology could improve hurricane forecasts by collecting data just above the ocean, where it’s deemed too unsafe for piloted Hurricane Hunter aircraft to fly.

Better forecasts mean emergency managers can make more informed decisions should a storm threaten, such as which areas need to evacuate.

NOAA hurricane hunting drone

Like dropsondes, which Hurricane Hunters currently deploy into storms to measure things such as pressure and wind speeds, the Altius 600 drone won’t be recoverable.

NOAA plans to test the drones for the first time in tropical systems this hurricane season.