There has been a lot of talk recently about government surveillance, unmanned drones, and the right to privacy. At the University of Florida, another type of unmanned plane is being used for a different reason altogether. Unmanned drones are being tested to help in hurricane research. The current method of storm research involves flying a large "hurricane hunter" airplane directly into the storm. These planes are outfitted with loads of equipment, and need to be flown by an actual human pilot. The group at UF's alternative is small drones, no more expensive than $250 each, with the ability to fly into a storm via remote control. While in the storm, the small drones, only 6 inches long, transmit data back to meteorologists hundreds of miles away.
Researchers haven't yet figured out how to steer storms away from land, but this type of research can help people understand storms better, and prepare for their arrival appropriately.