NASA sends unmanned aircraft to spy on hurricanes.
Satellites revolutionized scientists' ability to study hurricanes, providing valuable insights into what makes a storm tick. But detailed observations are limited to times when a satellite’s orbit crosses a hurricane's path. To combat this issue, NASA is experimenting with putting the same types of instruments that fly on satellites aboard unmanned aerial vehicles. In 2007 NASA acquired two Global Hawk aircraft originally designed for military use. The remote-controlled planes have since been equipped with tools for surveying storms. The planes can fly above a storm for hours on end, allowing scientists to make measurements over long periods of time. The data they collect will improve our understanding of how storms evolve. Watch the video to see how the aircraft's scanning radar system detects hot towers—columns of clouds and rising warm air that power hurricanes.