As hurricane season looms, NOAA and Raytheon team up to enhance predictions

Senator Nelson (D-FL) says this technology could be huge for his state, where 75 percent of...
Senator Nelson (D-FL) says this technology could be huge for his state, where 75 percent of residents live on the water.(GRAYDC)
Published: May. 31, 2016 at 3:46 PM EDT

Tomorrow marks the start of hurricane season, and folks in Washington are working to keep people prepared. A new piece of technology could give hurricane centers the most advanced readings to date, something crucial for at-risk states.

It’s called the Coyote, and the unmanned aircraft could change how experts predict hurricane strength and movement. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) says the state of the art technology is hugely important for his home state.

"You can get all kinds of instrument readings that allow you to better forecast exactly what that hurricane is going to do and how big of a monster it is,” said Nelson.

Before this drone’s creation, tools used to analyze hurricanes only gave experts a short look at storms. This aircraft can hang out in the walls of a hurricane for hours on end. Doctor Joe Cione spearheaded the effort for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"I’m interested in a movie, not a snapshot,” said Cione. "So we realized the only way we really can do this is if we can get an aircraft that is able to fly very, very low, fly in very high winds, and really give us a better understanding of what’s going on down there.”

The aircraft also serves military purposes. Raytheon originally designed it for the Department of Defense. Raytheon’s John Hobday says these multi-purpose machines are the way of the future.

"I see the benefit of this going from a military purpose to a civilian purpose,” said Hobday.

NOAA has been testing the Coyote for a few years now. They are nearly ready for the product to be fully operational, putting seven into use this year.

"You’re going to be able to get a much better estimate of what those winds are,” said Cione. "Why is that important? How does that help you? Because that’s the difference between evacuating a community or not.”