Cherokee Nation Helps in Hurricane Hunting


Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation is building on one of its technologies projects—helping Hurricane Hunters through the use of unmanned aircraft.

The Cherokee Nation Technologies created a partnership with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and NASA to support hurricane forecasting and damage assessment.

The Nation uses an unmanned aircraft Global Hawk to fly above recent hurricanes Gaston, Hermine, Karl and Matthew and in front of Hurricane Nicole. The plane deploys sondes or probes that automatically transmit information about the weather surroundings and forecasters use the data to help in predicting the intensity and path of the hurricanes.

“This important work is making it possible to learn more about severe weather without risking a life in uncertain environments,” said Steven Bilby, president of Cherokee Nation’s diversified businesses. “It’s also assessing and alerting emergency personnel to damage left in the immediate wake of hazardous storms.”

The Nation hired retired naval aviator J.C.Coffey to become the executive director of unmanned systems. He said the unmanned aircraft teams work closely with the manned C-130 Hurricane Hunters that fly into the storms to gather weather data.

Coffey said at least 12 unmanned flights were conducted over the summer of SHOUT or Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology Team Hurricane Rapid Response missions. Some 656 sondes were deployed and the Global Hawk flew more than 239 hours from July 28 to Oct. 10.

The Global Hawk flew last summer over Tropical Storm Erika, resulting in the first time its real-time weather data was implemented into hurricane models around the world to assist in forecasting a tropical storm.

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