Hurricane News Articles

NOAA flies straight into the Guinness World Records book

It’s one — no, two! — for the record books.

The 2024 edition of the Guinness World Records book recognizes NOAA offsite link and industry partners with two world records: 1) wind speed recorded by an uncrewed surface vehicle; and 2) endurance inside a tropical cyclone.

Find out how NOAA and partners earned these amazing accolades, and how uncrewed systems contribute to improved hurricane forecasts.

Catching the wind

Guinness World Records recognizes NOAA and Saildrone Inc. for using a specially-designed vehicle offsite link, called a saildrone, to gather the highest wind speed ever recorded by an uncrewed surface vehicle, which occurred during Hurricane Sam — a category 4 hurricane — on September 30, 2021.

On that day, the 23-foot long Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 registered a record-setting wind speed offsite link* of 126.4 miles per hour. While collecting this and other weather data, the bright orange wind and solar-powered robot transmitted a 28-second livestream that showed what it’s like to be tossed inside 50-foot high waves and 126 mph winds.

Stamina and stealth in the eye of a hurricane 

On the same page of the newly published Guinness World Records book, NOAA and the Altius-600 uncrewed aircraft system, developed by Anduril, is recognized for setting a record for the longest endurance flight inside a tropical cyclone by an uncrewed aircraft offsite link

The Altius-600 was deployed from NOAA’s P-3 Hurricane Hunter aircraft into Hurricane Ian on September 28, 2022. Once the drone was deployed from the bottom of the airplane, it spread its 8-foot long wings to fly for a record 102 minutes inside the eye of category 5 Hurricane Ian. 

The Altius-600 recorded wind speeds of 216 mph, communicated with NOAA’s P-3 Hurricane Hunter aircraft from distances up to 135 miles and collected key hurricane data. That data was transmitted in near-real-time to scientists, forecasters and NOAA’s operational centers.

A ‘revolution in technology’

“We are thrilled to see these two great accomplishments by NOAA and our partner scientists, engineers and pilots in this year’s Guinness World Records,” said Steve Thur, Ph.D., NOAA assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. “These new records demonstrate how research can transform what we know about the world and how it can lead to new tools and data to protect lives and property.”

During the current hurricane season, NOAA continues to build on its partnerships with Saildrone Inc. and Anduril. NOAA has increased the number of saildrones tracking hurricane data from 7 last season to 12 this season. Saildrone 1083 spent 30 minutes in the eye of Hurricane Idalia, and other saildrones entered Hurricane Franklin. 

The saildrones are operating in the Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA is also planning to deploy the Altius along with a second drone, the S0 built by Black Swift Technologies, later in the hurricane season. NOAA is assessing the use of these observations gathered for forecast improvement.

“We are at the beginning of a revolution in technology that is helping to extend NOAA’s observing capabilities of satellites, buoys and sensor-equipped Hurricane Hunter aircraft to better predict severe weather and understand our environment,” said NOAA Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, director of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, whose office funded both efforts. “I expect we’ll see more new records as we advance our forecasting tools to benefit public safety.”

*Note: The record was written as 125 knots (143 mph) due to a conversion mistake at the Guinness World Records book. It has been corrected in the Guinness database and on the website and will be corrected in subsequent editions of the book.

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