Would you want to climb up an active volcano to deposit a sensor at its crater? Probably not, and it's something that safety-conscious volcanologists would prefer not to do, too. With that in mind, British scientists have created drone-deployed sensing devices known as "dragon eggs."
Developed by a team at the University of Bristol, the eggs are small electronics-packed boxes that can be dropped off right at the heart of a volcano, using a remote-control quadcopter.
As long as the volcano isn't about to erupt, each device remains dormant, consuming very little power – in fact, they're claimed to feature "the lowest stand-by power consumption in the world." Upon detecting even slight volcanic tremors, however, they wake up and begin sensing/recording temperature, humidity, vibrations, and the presence of various toxic gases. They can operate individually, or in a linked multi-egg network.
The sensor data can be wirelessly transmitted in real time to a base station located up to 10 km away (6 miles), and from there transmitted via a satellite uplink to scientists at a research facility. There, it could be used in geological studies, or even to provide warnings of impending eruptions.
Because the eggs use so little power, they could reportedly remain operational for several months utilizing one battery. To that end, they could conceivably be used to remotely monitor not only volcanoes, but also hazardous settings such as glaciers, geological faults, or nuclear waste storage sites.
The technology has already been successfully field tested at the top of Italy's Stromboli volcano, and is now being commercially developed by spinoff company Sensor Driven Ltd.
You can see one of the dragon eggs being delivered to Stromboli, in the video below.
Source: University of Bristol
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