Highest wind speed recorded by an Uncrewed Surface Vehicle

Highest wind speed recorded by an Uncrewed Surface Vehicle
Saildrone , Saildrone Explorer SD 1045, NOAA
203.4 kilometre(s) per hour
United States
30 September 2021

The highest wind speed recorded by an uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) is 109.83 knots (203.4 km/h; 126.4 mph), measured by Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 as it passed through the eyewall of the Category 4 Hurricane Sam on 30 September 2021. This USV was designed by Saildrone (USA) in partnership with the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Saildrone Explorer is a model of 23-foot (7-m) autonomous vehicle, designed for long-endurance (up to one year) environmental monitoring missions. Each is propelled by a 15 ft (5 m) rigid sail (or "wing") and has solar panels to provide power for on-board instruments and transmitters.

SD 1045 is a custom "hurricane" variant of the standard Saildrone Explorer. It has a cropped wing and various other modifications to improve its stability in extreme conditions. NOAA operated seven of these vehicles in 2022, deploying them during hurricane season to each cover a sector of the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico that is typically traversed by storms.

When a significant storm enters a Saildrone's sector, controllers instruct it to navigate into its path, although the specific route taken is chosen by the autonomous drone itself.