American Space Agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will launch a remotely piloted Global Hawk aircraft this week to improve hurricane forecast. The aircraft will be equipped with very advanced weather forecast tools to observe working of storms from inside and will fly over the Atlantic Ocean basin until the end of September. Meanwhile, it will collect data on wind speed, wind direction, moisture and temperature.
For the mission named as Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology or SHOUT, NASA will work with The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“We are flying the Global Hawk above hurricanes and other severe storms to refine it as a new, powerful tool to better forecast where hurricanes go and how intense they are,” said Robbie Hood, director of unmanned aircraft system programme at the NOAA.
NOAA’s lead scientist for the mission, Gary Wick said that the aircraft will have endurance of satellite but will provide very fine resolution data with precision just like any other aircraft. He further added that Global Hawk will help us in staying ahead of weather patterns when compared to the manned aircraft.
The Global Hawk is laced with many high-tech instruments to study the inner structure of storms. Dropsondes, an equipment in the aircraft that will measure pressure, temperature, wind direction and speed while High-Altitude Imaging Wind and Rain (HIWRAP) instrument will measure precipitation and wind speed. High Altitude MMIC Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR) is a microwave sounder instrument designed to track temperature and humidity while Lightening Instrument Package (LIP) will measure electric field of thunderstorms.
Researchers from NOAA and NASA are also looking forward to replace the data collected by aircraft with that of the satellite in case of satellite failure. However, to achieve such a feat and that much trust among scientists, Global Hawk will have to prove in coming month that it is an alternative for satellites.
The aircraft will monitor and collect data at a height of 60,000 feet which is nearly twice the height of the manned aircraft. Unlike manned aircraft, the Global Hawk will work 24 hours continuously without any rest.
Moreover, NOAA is an American scientific agency that is focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere. It warns of dangerous weather, charts seas and skies, guides the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, and conducts research to improve understanding and stewardship of the environment.