Recent advances in technology have made drones available to the general public. And as nerds go, they have found brilliant ways to use these. Flying a drone with a camera into a volcano is one of them. See this video from Marum, Vanuatu.
Sam Crossman doesn’t see himself as a scientist. He’s an explorer. However, this work is pretty amazing to me. Read on to see why.
Biology to the extremes
I’m not a biologist but as far as my understanding goes, lava isn’t the most habitable environments. Proteins degenerate at about 120°C. However, once the lava cools, extremophile bacteria settle on the cooling rocks.
Now there’s a problem. Volcanoes are a tiny bit dangerous. It’s not just the temperatures. The fumes and gases are quite toxic. Apart from that you can’t always see all the vents of a volcano system.
— BBC Capital (@BBC_Capital) June 16, 2015
Support from the air
This is where the drones on Vanuatu come in. Apart from some inspiring footage, a drone can help these scientists avoid hazardous locations and make out sampling locations.
The video shows some footage how the drone maps the volcano with Pix4D. They used this to plan pathways to a sampling location and identify sampling locations.
In partnership with DJI and Pix4D, I leveraged the Phantom drone as a critical tool for advancing the scientific goals of our expedition. The Phantom served as our eye in the sky, identifying obstacles, hazards, and optimal descent routes. Additionally, the technology aided in identifying previously unknown vents and other hazardous eruptive features.
Apparently, this was however quite an expensive endeavour. Two drones were lost to the volcano. Steering a drone isn’t always easy and before flying into a volcano I suggest practicing a lot. The hot fumes from a volcano cause a lot of turbulence and complications in uplift so that it is quite easy to have the drone drop into the lava or to an unrecoverable site.
Not a scientist
Correct, I’m not a scientist. I believe my role as an explorer/filmmaker is to unearth, create, protect, and inspire. I’m personally fascinated by the world’s unknown and misunderstood phenomenon.
He may not be a scientist, but this is a huge help the way I see it. I can imagine a few ways, drones can serve as a cheaper alternative to other geophysical instruments. Read more on the Q&A Crossman did here.
What ideas come to your mind to use drones in geophysics?
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