Follow along as unmanned Cape Fear Community College vessel tracks Hurricane Matthew’s effects off the Outer Banks is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

The R/V Cape Hatteras has been apart of CFCC's Marine Technology program since 2013. The program just received a donation from a local fishing club for scholarships in the program. Photo courtesy of CFCC.
The R/V Cape Hatteras launched an unmanned sailboat drifter that is collecting data on currents, waves and winds as Hurricane Matthew approaches. (Photo courtesy of Cape Fear Community College)

WILMINGTON — Students in Cape Fear Community College’s Marine Technology program have a rare opportunity this week: Studying the affects of a hurricane while it happens.

A five-foot unmanned sailboat drifter was recently deployed from the Cape Hatteras, the college’s main research vessel, off the Outer Banks by students taking their first senior training cruise.

Data collected by the drifter is supplied every 12 hours by way of a satellite signal sent out by an on-board, built-in GPS system. From this information, marine technology students will learn about ocean currents, wind and waves and how those elements affect ships and marine life. The drifter’s data will also be used by oceanography students to study larger-scale ocean currents and winds.

During class scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 7, the students who deployed the five-foot drifter will be discussing the vessel’s current status as Hurricane Matthew approaches the east coast of the United States. The public can follow the drifter’s location on its tracking website.

Faculty and students from Cape Fear Community College’s Boat Manufacturing and Service program built the mini sailboat, which is made of fiberglass, at the school’s downtown Wilmington Campus. A similar vessel, called the Marlin Spikin’ Miller, made it across the Atlantic to the coast of Ireland this past spring.