Many people have lived through hurricanes, but very few have flown into them on purpose. On a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) today, Frank Marks, the head of NOAA’s Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project and Commander Justin Kibbey, a NOAA pilot, took questions about what it’s like to fly into hurricanes to gather data crucial to helping forecasters predict a storm’s movement.
With UAVs of all kinds, from former war drones to disposable drones increasingly being used to study hurricanes, one of the first questions that the pair took was about the relevance of their jobs in an era of increasing automation.
Reddit user ppcpilot asked: “With the growth of unmanned aerial vehicles, do you see the flying part of your job replaced by these vehicles? Surely it would be much safer and cheaper to have the researchers do their jobs from the ground?”
Reddit user basic_bruja asks: “Dr. Marks- have tropical cyclones changed much since you started flying into them in the 80s- and if so, how? What kinds of implications do any changes in cyclone behavior over time have for the next 50 years (or beyond)?”
Then of course there’s the fact that the Kibbey and Marks have easily one of the more awesome jobs in the world, and many kids want to grow up to be like them. Reddit user njb42 asked: “My son is in second grade and loves reading about weather. He would like to know: what is the biggest storm you’ve ever flown into?”
But the most important question of all came from Reddit user PoudreValley who wanted to know: “On a weekly basis, how many times do you listen to the song “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by the Scorpions.”