A new tool for hurricane scientists and tornado hunters: drones

The Coyote.

The Coyote.

In the WSJ, a feature about a specialized drone that could help scientists better predict the intensity of tornados and hurricanes.

NOAA plans to release five Coyote UAVs during the 2014 hurricane season, which began on June 1, as part of a $1.3 million federal project funded in response to 2012's superstorm Sandy.

From the WSJ:

Hurricane researchers for years have deployed an array of aircraft to help predict a storm's strength and path, from "Hurricane Hunter" turboprops that fly into its core to unmanned Global Hawks that cruise high above it. But one of the most critical areas of a hurricane—its lowest section, where the sea and winds churn violently—has largely been off-limits because of the perils of sending manned aircraft there.

Now, scientists think they have a cost-effective solution: a drone called the Coyote designed to venture into that turbulent zone for as long as two hours and beam back a stream of data that can paint a more precise picture of a storm.

"The way we're measuring things now is a snapshot," said Joseph Cione, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who is spearheading the drone project. "The Coyote will give me a movie."