Airplane missile commits suicide in hurricanes for science

This cute little robotic airplane called GALE exists to be shot out of a missile tube bolted to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration P-3 Orion aircraft as it's flying headlong through a hurricane, all in the name of science. SCIENCE!

Near the middle of a hurricane is not a fun place to be if you're flying a plane, which is why NOAA has teamed up with with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and UAV maker DynaWerks to create a little air-launched UAV that can take temperature and wind speed measurements without puking all over the place and/or crashing into the ocean.

GALE, as the probe is called, is three feet long and comes packed into a missile tube. When it's fired, it deploys wings and a tail, and can be remotely piloted through a hurricane just a hundred feet above the waves. This region where the air meets the water is where all the hurricane magic happens, and taking measurements of temperature, pressure, and wind speeds down there will help NOAA to better predict what path a hurricane will take and how strong it'll be.


Each GALE drone costs about $30,000, which makes them 100% expendable as far as the U.S. government is concerned. After about an hour and a half of airtime, GALE will simply run out of gas and crash into the sea, or it'll be sent barreling headlong into the eyewall, aka the absolute most violent part of the entire storm, in the hope that the drone will last long enough to send back some meaningful data before it gets shredded.

Seeing as hurricane eyewall winds can reach several hundred miles an hour and GALE weighs a scant eight pounds, we'd better make that "very very faint hope."

Sun Sentinel, via Aviation Week

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