Drones

Drone used to safely study an active volcano

Drone used to safely study an ...
The Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala
The Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala
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The Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala
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The Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala
A thermal image of the Santa Maria volcano's lava dome, taken by the FLIR camera
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A thermal image of the Santa Maria volcano's lava dome, taken by the FLIR camera

Active volcanic craters are something that people generally don't want to get very close to – even if they're dedicated volcanologists. With that in mind, German scientists recently had success using a drone to do the job.

Led by PhD candidate Edgar Zorn, a team from the German Research Centre for Geosciences started by equipping a DJI Phantom 4 Pro quadcopter with a FLIR TAU 2 thermal imaging camera. They then repeatedly flew the drone over the Caliente cone of the Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala.

Footage from the copter's onboard 4K optical camera was digitally combined with that from the FLIR camera, creating stereoscopic video that displayed both visual and thermal imagery. When a computer subsequently analyzed that footage, it was able to create a 3D model of the volcano with centimeter-scale accuracy.

A thermal image of the Santa Maria volcano's lava dome, taken by the FLIR camera
A thermal image of the Santa Maria volcano's lava dome, taken by the FLIR camera

That model included information that couldn't have been gathered as thoroughly from the ground, including the lava's flow pattern and velocity along with the volcano's surface temperature. Such data is important for determining if a major eruption is imminent.

"We have shown that the use of drones can help to completely re-measure even the most dangerous and active volcanoes on Earth from a safe distance," says Zorn.

A paper on the study was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: German Research Centre for Geosciences via EurekAlert

1 comment
paul314
Any profession where your subject of study sprays poison gas and lobs large molten rocks at you might best be done remotely. The additional good news here is that that drone survived as well.