The U.S. government reported Aug. 26 that an unmanned Global Hawk aircraft owned by NASA is making a 24-hour flight over Tropical Storm Erika in the Atlantic Ocean to conduct storm research.

Northrop Grumman Corp. builds the Global Hawk, and the program office is in Rancho Bernardo.

NASA’s Global Hawk took off at 7 a.m. Eastern time from Wallops Island, Va.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is overseeing the research flight.

“We’re flying the Global Hawk above hurricanes and other severe storms to refine it as a new, powerful tool to better forecast where hurricanes go and how intense they are,” said Robbie Hood, director of NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System Program, in a statement distributed by NASA.

From now until the end of September, pilots and scientists will direct a series of flights over the Atlantic to collect data on temperature, moisture, wind speed and wind direction. The real-time data will go into National Weather Service forecast models at the National Hurricane Center.

The aircraft is usually based at the NASA facility near Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert. Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) builds Global Hawks at the Air Force plant at Edwards.

Aug. 29 is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in Louisiana, and the catastrophic levee failures that flooded New Orleans.