Ocean drone caught inside Hurricane Sam captures hair-raising video

A brave drone ship entered the belly of a Category 4 beast and witnessed some wild waves.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
Enlarge Image

Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 is exploring the insides of major Hurricane Sam.


Hurricane Sam is the strongest storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season so far, though it's fortunately not threatening to make landfall. While we've seen Sam churning from orbit, we now have some extraordinary new footage from inside the Category 4 storm.

Autonomous ocean vehicle company Saildrone is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor the storm from an unusual vantage point. On Thursday, Saildrone shared a video taken by its Saildrone Explorer SD 1045.

The video shows heaving waves at stomach-turning angles as witnessed by the drone ship. In a statement, Saildrone described it as "the first video footage gathered by an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) from inside a major hurricane barreling across the Atlantic Ocean."

second video shows the drone's location within the hurricane.  

The ocean level view is very different from what we typically see from space or from Hurricane Hunter aircraft that fly into storms. The drone ship sports a special "hurricane wing" that allows it to deal with the whipping winds of the storm.

The drone isn't just surfing for the fun of it. "New data from saildrones and other uncrewed systems that NOAA is using will help us better predict the forces that drive hurricanes and be able to warn communities earlier," NOAA scientist Greg Foltz said.

NASA sees dramatic Earth weather from space (pictures)

See all photos

Hurricane Sam could still have an impact on coast lines. It's expected to remain a major hurricane for several more days and is likely to send significant ocean swells toward some islands, including the Bahamas and Bermuda. Those swells could reach portions of Canada and the East Coast of the US by this weekend. NOAA is warning of "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions."

The Sam-exploring drone is one of five hurricane-monitoring Saildrone ships that are working the Atlantic this season. The brave vessel has gone where no human would want to go and lived to show its story to the world.