Saildrone’s Atlantic Hurricane Mission Recognized as Story of the Year

NOAA, The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, the Weather Channel, and Popular Mechanics have named the Atlantic hurricane mission one of the most important stories of 2021.

From the first civilian crew to fly into space to the discovery of a bioluminescent shark, a new way to perform knee surgery, and a Nobel prize for a lifetime of work in climate science (NOAA scientist Syukuro Manabe), 2021 was a busy year for science, technology, and innovation.

The world’s leading publications have put together their lists of the most important and most influential stories of the year, and they all have one story in common: The 2021 Atlantic hurricane mission. 

In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), five Saildrone Explorers equipped with special “hurricane” wings were deployed to the tropical Atlantic to collect data about hurricane rapid intensification. All five vehicles sampled in or near a major tropical cyclone, and SD 1045 spent 24 hours inside category 4 Hurricane Sam battling winds over 90 mph and waves higher than 50 feet.

Click the links below to learn more about the year’s most important stories!

NOAA Research’s top 5 stories of 2021

“It was a world first: a bright orange saildrone capturing video footage from inside a hurricane. In September, the Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 battled 50-foot waves and winds of over 120 miles per hour to collect critical scientific data on Category 4 Hurricane Sam. The footage gave scientists a brand-new view of one of earth’s most destructive forces.”

Read on

Popular Science’s 100 greatest innovations of 2021

“Powered by the sun and wind, the autonomous 23-foot Saildrone became the first-ever robotic vehicle to navigate into the eye of a hurricane…Labs across the country are already putting this floating Swiss Army Knife, which offers data from the ocean’s surface missing from satellite imagery, to work: NASA to augment imperfect satellite readings and study climate change, and NOAA to survey the health of Alaskan pollock.”

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The New York Times’ 21 things that happened for the first time in 2021

“Researchers from Saildrone, which makes oceanic research drones, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hope that the data collected will help them better understand how hurricanes intensify.”

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Smithsonian’s top 10 ocean stories of 2021

“Traveling to the eye of any hurricane is a treacherous endeavor. Such a journey is so perilous that it wasn’t until this year that scientists were able to successfully send a sailing drone into the heart of a Category 4 hurricane.”

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Forbes’ 10 ocean wonders to carry you into 2022

“It’s amazing that technology has progressed to point that we can deploy autonomous robots to both collect data and see things under circumstances that would never be safe for a human.”

Read on

The Weather Channel’s 10 most unforgettable moments of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season

“This is a milestone in hurricane research because the air-ocean boundary is where the heat and moisture of the ocean lift into the atmosphere and power the wind, clouds and precipitation miles higher into the stratosphere. Studying this interaction could offer clues into how future storms intensify.”

Read on

Follow Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 through the eye of category 4 Hurricane Sam. SD 1045 spent 24 hours inside the hurricane in winds over 90 mph and waves higher than 50 feet to collect important data about the exchange of energy between the ocean and the atmosphere.


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