Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Drones collect measurements from a volcanic plume at Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala

12.04.2017

A team of volcanologists and engineers from the Universities of Bristol and Cambridge have collected measurements from directly within volcanic clouds, together with visual and thermal images of inaccessible volcano peaks.

During a ten-day research trip the team carried out many proof-of-concept flights at the summits of both Volcán de Fuego and Volcán de Pacaya in Guatemala. Using lightweight modern sensors they measured temperature, humidity and thermal data within the volcanic clouds and took images of multiple eruptions in real-time.


Volcán de Fuego (near with plume), neighbouring Volcán de Acatenango, and Volcán de Agua (far). Picture taken on a BVLOS long-range flight.

Credit: Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and INSIVUMEH

This is one of the first times that bespoke fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used at a volcano such as Fuego, where the lack of close access to the summit vent has prevented robust gas measurements. Funding from the Cabot Institute has helped the team to develop technologies to enable this capability. The UAVs were successfully flown beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) at distances of up to 8 kilometres away, and 10,000 feet above the launch site.

The group plan to return to Guatemala later in the year with a wider range of sensors including a multiGAS gas analyser (CO2, SO2, H2S); a four-stage filter pack; carbon stubs for ash sampling; thermal and visual cameras, and atmospheric sensors.

Dr Emma Liu, Volcanologist from the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge, said: "Volcanoes are prodigious sources of volatiles and trace metals and have a key role in the geochemical cycling of these elements through the Earth system.

Drones offer an invaluable solution to the challenges of in-situ sampling and routine monitoring of volcanic emissions, particularly those where the near-vent region is prohibitively hazardous or inaccessible. These sensors not only help to understand emissions from volcanoes, they could also be used in the future to help alert local communities of impending eruptions - particularly if the flights can be automated."

Dr Tom Richardson, Senior Lecturer in Flight Dynamics in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Bristol, explained: "Building on our award winning work on Ascension Island, the team carried out multiple beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights from the observatory flying up to 10,000 feet above the launch site to reach the summit of Volcán de Fuego. Our success has resulted in direct invitations from the Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil and Instituto Nacional de Sismología, Vulcanología, Meteorología e Hidrología to return and continue this ground-breaking work."

Dr Kieran Wood, Senior Research Associate in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Bristol, added: "Even during this initial campaign we were able to meet significant science and engineering targets. For example, multiple imaging flights over several days captured the rapidly changing topography of Fuego's summit. These showed that the volcano was erupting from not just one, but two active summit vents."

Ben Schellenberg, a first year Aerospace Engineering PhD student at Bristol, expressed: "Being involved in a field trip of this type so early on in my PhD has been incredibly exciting. Initial analysis of the sensor and flight data tell us that we will be able to automatically identify when we are in volcanic emissions. I can't wait to return to test out this hypothesis."

Taking time out from their sample flights, the research group also used their aircraft to map the topology of a barranca and the volcanic deposits within it. These deposits were formed by a recent pyroclastic flow, a fast-moving cloud of superheated ash and gas, which travelled down the barranca from Fuego. The data captured will assist in modelling flow pathways and the potential impact of future volcanic eruptions on nearby settlements.

Dr Matt Watson, Reader in Natural Hazards in the School of Earth Sciences at Bristol, said: "This is exciting initial research for future investigations, and would not be possible without a very close collaboration between volcanology and engineering."

The team of engineers and volcanologists involved in the research trip were: Dr Colin Greatwood, Dr Tom Richardson, Ben Schellenberg, Dr Helen Thomas, Dr Matt Watson, Dr Kieran Wood from the University of Bristol and Dr Emma Liu from the University of Cambridge.

Media Contact

Joanne Fryer
joanne.fryer@bristol.ac.uk
44-011-733-17276

 @BristolUni

http://www.bristol.ac.uk 

Joanne Fryer | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered
18.01.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht A close-up look at an uncommon underwater eruption
11.01.2018 | Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>