The U.S. Navy Is Trying Out Hurricane Research Drones

August 2, 2017

10:50 am

Drones have plenty of applications: They’re tiny and can navigate over or through hard-to-reach locations. They’ve already been paired up with other cutting-edge technologies: Consider the wifi-based X-ray vision that some researchers have already tried out. Using drones, they can now 3D-map a building from the outside.

Of course, not everyone is relying on impressive tech. Remember those surfers who fed a shark using a drone? Or take a recent MacGyver-like prison escape in which a drone may have delivered wire-cutters to a South Carolina inmate.

Now the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is the latest institution to have a great idea for their use: Researching hurricanes.

Sending Drones Into Hurricanes

Here are the specs on the fleet of hurricane research drones, as reported by Digital Trends:

“The Close-in Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft MK5, or CICADAs, are an inexpensive, autonomous, fleet of GPS-controlled drones. Unlike traditional aerial drones, the CICADAs have no motor or onboard propulsion system. Instead, the 1.2-ounce drones are released midair from an aircraft and then glide to their intended destination. Each CICADA has a “glide ratio” of about 3.5 to 1 — meaning the drone has the ability to glide forward 3.5 feet for every one foot it descends.

The latest CICADA prototype has flat wings and an overall flat build, enabling the “micro aircraft” to be easily stacked in canisters and deployed in large numbers. The Navy is currently using a delivery system that stacks 32 CICADAs into a single cylindrical container for deployment.”

Once deployed, the drones will record biological, chemical, and meteorological data, which the Navy hopes to use in order to better analyze and predict the patterns of future hurricanes or tornadoes.

So far, the hurricane research drones have performed in tests reaching as far as 8,000 feet. You can check out the footage on YouTube in order to keep up on this latest use for drone technologies.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He’s based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state’s slogan: “sayWA.” In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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