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NASA's Global Hawk soars aloft from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The NASA Global Hawk is well-suited for hurricane investigations.

Beginning this summer and for several years, NASA will send drones dubbed “severe storm sentinels” above severe storms to uncover hurricane formation and intensity-change information.

Several NASA centers are joining federal and university partners in the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) airborne mission targeted to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin.

NASA's unmanned sentinels are autonomously flown. The NASA Global Hawk can over-fly hurricanes at altitudes greater than 60,000 feet with flight durations of up to 28 hours, something piloted aircraft would find nearly impossible to do.

Global Hawks were used in the agency’s 2010 Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes hurricane mission and the Global Hawk Pacific environmental science mission. HS3 will use two Global Hawk aircraft and six different instruments this summer, flying from a base of operations at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Image courtesy of NASA/Tony Landis.

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