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Forecasters may soon have a new tool to measure the power of a hurricane.
What scientists are working on at a Florida University.
If you didn't know any better, you'd easily mistake this for a model airplane club. But the tiny planes being developed here at the University of Florida, they call them drones, are more than toys. Some no bigger than a bat.
So there's really nothing to it. It's got hardly any weight to it at all, could one day save your life.
For decades, hurricane hunter aircraft have been flying into the hearts of the storms gathering information to help determine a hurricanes path and strength. Science has gotten increasingly better at forecasting the direction a storm will take. Figuring out how strong it might get has been problematic. So, enter the drones.
"When you are using hundreds of very small, cheap sensors you could get actually significantly better results than a concentrated larger sensor."
In addition to a hurricane hunter aircraft flying the storm, you'd bombard it with dozens of drones dropped over the top of or around the outskirts of the hurricane. They'll be equipped with sensors to measure pressure, temperature and humidity...Data critical to forecasting hurricane strength. Sounds great right? But how come these featherweight flyers won't be obliterated, knocked to pieces? Well, guess what. That's kind of how's it's supposed to work.
"In fact most of the flight they will tumble around. They get tossed around like they're debris. Once in a while we tell them to push yourself up a little bit."
Once in the right spot, researchers say the hurricane does the rest. Its circulation draws the drones to the eyewall. All the time they'll be relaying back data. And most should survive the ordeal.
"Your impact energy is proportional to your mass."
Huh? Bottom line. If they were big they'd splat. Because they're small they won't.
It really goes to that very simple saying. The bigger they are the harder they fall?
The drones will have company too. Drones and mini subs have military applications as well. The researchers say, some funding comes from the Air Force and Navy. But for now, the enemy is the hurricane.