Raytheon has announced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has used six of the company’s Coyote unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to track and model Hurricane Maria. Launched from a NOAA WP-3D Orion hurricane hunter aircraft, the Coyotes flew directly into the storm, giving researchers an unprecedented view of Maria from a safe distance.
Developed for the military, Coyote is a small, expendable UAV that can be air- or ground-launched into environments too dangerous for manned aircraft. The system can fly for more than an hour and up to 50 miles from its host aircraft.
“Raytheon technology is enabling hurricane hunters to understand storm behavior in new and better ways,” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon vice president of Advanced Missile Systems. “Our expendable Coyote UAVs are delivering vital information about these potentially deadly storms—and that can help save lives.”
Navigating Maria’s winds of greater than 100 miles per hour, the Coyotes gathered and transmitted storm information directly to the National Hurricane Center. NOAA scientists are evaluating the data to better understand Hurricane Maria and other storms like it.
“NOAA is investing in these unmanned aircraft and other technologies to increase weather observations designed to improve the accuracy of our hurricane forecasts,” said Dr. Joe Cione, NOAA hurricane researcher and chief scientist for the Coyote program. “The Coyotes collected critical, continuous observations in the lower part of the hurricane, an area impossible to reach with manned aircraft.”
Researchers can also fly Coyotes throughout the storms, revisiting key locations inside hurricanes to obtain the most robust data possible.
The Coyote system is one of Raytheon’s family of high-tech weather forecasting technology, including the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite instrument aboard NOAA’s Suomi NPP spacecraft, the common ground system for the Joint Polar Satellite System, and the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, a powerful forecast toolkit that helps meteorologists make sense of the massive amounts of weather data that modern sensors collect.