Global Hawk Aircraft
This image captures a perspective of NASA's Global Hawk unmanned aircraft from one of the wings. The Global Hawk is sitting at the aircraft hangar of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. on Sept. 7, 2012.
The month-long Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3), which began in early September, is currently deploying one instrument-laden Global Hawk from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore to look at the environment of tropical storms. In 2013 and 2014, a second Global Hawk will be added that will focus on getting detailed measurements of the inner core of hurricanes.
The Global Hawk's ability to fly for a much longer period of time than manned aircraft will allow it to obtain previously difficult-to-get data. Scientists hope to use that data to gain new insights into how tropical storms form, and more importantly, how they intensify into major Atlantic hurricanes — information that forecasters need to make better storm predictions, save lives, and ultimately prevent costly coastal evacuations if a storm doesn't warrant them.
Image Credit: NASA