Remotely-operated boats right into the eye of the storm

EMILY,an unmanned surface vehicle, that will go into the eye of the storm. (Courtesy: Hydronalix)

By Sonya Stevens

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Sending remotely-operated boats right into the eye of the storm to help improve hurricane forecasts.

That's what NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wants to accomplish with EMILY.

EMILY, which stands for Emergency Integrated Life Saving Lanyard, is a 65-inch long unmanned surface vehicle that will be used by NOAA to collect various data in the eye of a hurricane.

"The current sensor will provide barometric pressure, air and sea surface temperature, salinity, wind speed and direction, humidity and imagery," said Justyna Nicinska, project manager. "The objective is to provide continuous, real-time observations from the eye of a hurricane, which will help to fill in data gaps and therefore improve hurricane forecasts."

EMILY will also have the capability to send images to NOAA scientists thanks to a high-definition camera that will be onboard the water-tight vessel.

"The on-board autopilot collects data from the sensors and relays them through a Short Burst Data (SBD) satellite link as well as receiving updated navigational information and controlling the platform's position," said Nicinska.

Hydronalix Inc. originally developed EMILY to help first responders in the rescue of distressed and drowning people in rip currents, floods and swift water.

The company is developing the EMILY hurricane tracker under a federal Small Business Innovation Research grant with funding support from the NOAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office, according to NOAA.

It{}is run by a gasoline motor and can last up to ten days.

"NOAA aims to launch the EMILY from land and track a developing tropical cyclone, while remotely steering the USV (unmanned surface vehicle) to reach model-derived points that will make it easier to move into the eye," said Nicinska.

NOAA will receive ten EMILYs in August 2012 and deployments into tropical systems could be as early as late summer.

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