Global Hawks were built for the still skies above wars. The surveillance drones, America’s largest, fly in the calmer altitudes of around 60,000 feet above the ground, where they can wait for over a day, cameras pointed down, watching. The same characteristics that make a Global Hawk a useful tool of war against insurgents also lend its power as a storm watcher. NASA has a Global Hawk, painted bright white and not Air Force gray–and last week it flew over a tropical storm Gaston, determining it was, in fact, a hurricane.
The Global Hawk was flown in support of NOAA’s National Weather Service National Hurricane Center. From NOAA:
Gaston may still just be a tropical storm now, but thanks to the drone flight overhead, for a brief moment scientists knew the truth of Gaston: that it was the hurricane it aspired to be, and that it may retain enough strength to become a hurricane again.
Check out the picture of the hurricane from above, captured by the Global Hawk: