| CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Sept 11
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Sept 11 NASA is using of a
pair of decommissioned military drones to study how tropical
storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean.
The campaign, known as the Hurricane and Severe Storm
Sentinel, or HS3, began last year with one Global Hawk unmanned
aircraft outfitted with instruments to probe the environment
around a developing storm.
With two planes available for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane
season, scientists are focusing on the interior of storms as
well. The project could improve storm prediction and forecast
models by shedding light on how tropical cyclones can rapidly
"The second aircraft will measure eyewall and rainband
winds, and precipitation, something we didn't get to do last
year," project lead scientist Scott Braun, a meteorologist with
the U.S. space agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a NASA interview.
"Just as we did in 2012, the first aircraft will examine the
large-scale environment that tropical storms form in and move
through, and how that environment affects the inner workings of
the storms," he said.
The NASA Global Hawks were built for the U.S. Air Force by
Northrop Grumman Corp, part of a fleet used for
surveillance missions over Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Global Hawks, which first flew in 1998, also have supported
disaster relief efforts in Haiti and Japan. NASA first used the
planes for scientific research in April 2010.
Global Hawks are particularly suited for atmospheric studies
since they can reach altitudes greater than 60,000 feet (18,288
meters), about twice as high as commercial airplanes, and can
stay airborne for up to about 28 hours.
For its hurricane research program, NASA is remotely flying
its Global Hawks from the Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops
Island, Virginia. Flights began in late August and are scheduled
to run through Sept. 23. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from
June 1 to Nov. 30 and typically peaks in early to mid-September.
The next flight from Wallops is scheduled to leave no
earlier than Friday, NASA spokesman Keith Koehler said.
The project is expected to run through next year.