A solar-powered, wave-hopping robot named Alex was launched into the ocean by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) earlier this month to help improve hurricane tracking, and the boogie-board-sized craft has already had its first taste of action. It has been busily collecting ocean data on the fringes of Hurricane Isaac’s path north of Puerto Rico, and sooner or later this season it may find itself smack in the middle of a hurricane. As if that’s not a big enough job, Alex could also find itself in the crosshairs of Rush Limbaugh’s next rant about “weather dolts” at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.
Mobile Robots Improve Hurricane Tracking
According to a recent article by Tekla Perry for IEEE, one key goal is to gain a better understanding of the factors that propel a tropical storm into hurricane status, and from one category of intensity to another.
Water temperature plays a critical role in this progression, but data from satellites, manned ships, airplanes, and moored buoys are providing an incomplete picture. Alex is able to measure ocean temperatures below the surface, and as a simply designed and unmanned craft, it can brave conditions that would be far too risky for a human or a more complicated device.
Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1lU0P)
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