Scientists will use the Northrop Grumman-built, NASA Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles to collect hurricane data as part of a multi-year, severe weather study centered on the Atlantic Ocean, the company says.
The study—Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3)—seeks to examine the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean, Northrop says.
“The high-altitude and long-duration capabilities of NASA's Global Hawks allow HS3 to sample storms virtually anywhere in the Atlantic and for durations up to three times that of conventional aircraft,” said Scott Braun, the principal investigator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Being able to stay over a storm for 15 or more hours allows us to observe storms in ways that were simply not possible before.”
Before selection which UAV to use, scientists conducted two test flights of a NASA Global Hawk. The first was a 24-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean occurring on Sept. 8-9, and the second was a 19.5-hour flight over the Gulf of Mexico occurring on Sept. 13-14. Data were collected from three scientific instruments aboard the Global Hawk: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System; the University of Wisconsin's Scanning High-Resolution Interferometer Sounder (S-HIS); and the High Altitude Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR.)
“Global Hawk’s ability to fly as high as 65,000 feet for periods of up to 30 hours provides the science community the opportunity to explore remote areas of the Earth's atmosphere,” said Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman’s advanced concepts vice president. “Additionally, Global Hawk’s flexible and mature design allows for modifying the aircraft with varying scientific instruments for different types of science missions,” he said.