In Underwater Drones, a New Weapon for Hurricane Hunters featured on UNDARK


A researcher’s decision to put an underwater drone in Hurricane Irene’s path is helping to transform the science of hurricane intensity prediction.

Jan Ellen Spiegel |

In August 2011, with Hurricane Irene bearing down on the mid-Atlantic coast, Scott Glenn, an ocean engineering researcher at Rutgers University, made a bold decision. While most other research teams moved their ships, personnel, and expensive hardware to safety ahead of the hurricane, Glenn left his data-collecting drone — a torpedo-shaped underwater “glider” about 6 feet long and worth about $150,000 — directly in its path.

Because that remote-controlled glider survived Irene — much to the relief of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which technically owned it — it may have helped to change the science of hurricane intensity prediction.

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