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To provide precise information of ocean weather where we need it, the ability to deploy ocean sensor systems from the air is critical. Weather events rarely have the luxury of time associated with them, and the ability to deploy connected sensors nearby provides invaluable data to improve prediction and forecasting models.
For example, to improve hurricane forecasting and be able to predict how and where it makes landfall, real-time data close to the storm is important, including observations of waves, wind and sea surface temperatures (SST).
The lack of such data results in large uncertainties in both the intensity and track of the storm. Deploying traditional instruments from shipping vessels near the storm is not possible due to the rapid changes in weather cells and the relatively slow speed of vessels, and the associated risks of approaching a storm at sea. As a result, real-time and accurate ocean weather data during extreme events is usually not available.
Rapid deployment via air could potentially be safer, more cost-efficient and could place important ocean sensor systems considerably quicker than shipping vessels.
To allow for deployment from the air we developed Spotter Airdrop: a compact parachute accessory with release harness that is optimized for rapid deployment of Spotter, a compact, solar-powered weather buoy. This new accessory allows Spotter to be deployed from any altitude and speed from airplanes and helicopters. The parachute is designed to be robust and provide enough drag for a safe landing in the water, but small enough to limit drift and enable precise delivery.
Upon touch-down in water the quick release harness detaches from Spotter, releasing the ballast chain and dropping free the parachute harness. This way Spotter is immediately operational and without the risk of the parachute covering the solar panels or affecting data collection. The parachute and quick release-harness are completely biodegradable, ensuring that no unnecessary litter is left behind in the ocean.
Spotter can now partition data to provide better insight into the nature of the sea state.