NASA knows how to recycle. Since 2010, the space agency has been taking retired Global Hawk military drones and sending them to high altitudes to monitor and collect data from weather systems, including hurricanes.
"What's neat about these airplanes is that you can get in a very high altitude," said Frank Cutler, Global Hawk project manager at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center. "You can do that with manned airplanes, too, but uniquely you can get this over a weather system for a very long period of time. You observe a hurricane as it develops and then runs through its whole cycle for up to almost a day."
The Global Hawk's massive wings, which measure 116 feet from tip to tip, allow it to climb 60,000 feet in the air. And this is all powered by a single jet engine. The aircraft can also be programmed to fly completely autonomously.
So what is all this weather data good for? It helps create accurate weather forecasts. This means every time you check your favorite weather app for that weekly forecast, you should thank these NASA drones.
To see these Global Hawk drones in action, check out the video below from Wired: