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By Norberto Ovando
Scientists from different parts of the world are warning about the growth of volcanic activity and unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as Drones, (in Spanish they are known as UAV-Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), have acquired great importance for monitoring environmental and volcanic detection.
These air vehicles, due to their physics, mechanical and electronic configuration, are capable of developing a multiplicity of tasks. They are provided with electronic equipment such as DGPS (global differential positioning system), altimeter, compass, gyroscope, telemetric communication system, high-resolution digital video camera that transmit images and data in real time, and thermal or infrared cameras depending on the area. they do.
Echodrones have the virtue of providing great benefits to the environment, flying quickly over protected ecosystems, flooded areas, areas with ashfall, they can measure air pollution and record during a volcanic eruption.
In high-risk places equipped with the appropriate technology, echodrones carry efficient and safe instruments to observe and evaluate the behavior of volcanic activity. The detailed capture of images and videos, allows to draw thermal maps of the summits and gather the additional data that is required for each opportunity, travel the movements of the lava rivers, measure and compare concentrations of substances in the air, etc., verify the smoke and waste that the volcano releases into the atmosphere, providing a large amount of information in a few hours of flight.
Echodrones in dangerous situations can move quickly from one position to another and leave the danger zone in seconds, if necessary.
A team of NASA researchers deployed three drones weighing just two kilos and one meter wide with special instruments above the cloud of harmful sulfur dioxide from the Turrialba volcano, one of the most active near San José, the capital of Costa Delicious.
Scientists believe that the data obtained on the intensity and character of volcanic activity located near the crater vent, know the height of concentrations of ash and gas (for example, volcanic sulfur dioxide or "VOG"), and temperatures during an eruption will help improve life for people living near volcanoes.
The volcanologist who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Volcán de Fuego de Colima, Mauricio Bretón González, expressed the possibility of using echodrones for volcanic surveillance, especially in a volcano such as Colima, and stated that “The Fuego volcano in Colima, the more active and the most explosive that we have in the country, forces us to look for new methods for surveillance.
The first tests were carried out with a hexacopter capable of flying at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters from the Nevado de Colima National Park, where a monitoring station of the Volcanological Observatory of the University of Colima is located.
"This is the first time that we are doing it in Colima and we hope that it will serve as a reference for other volcanoes and for other dangers that echodrones may be usable," specified Bretón González.
Indonesia's Volcano Research and Technology Development Center (BPPTK) is using echodrones to monitor the activity of the Sinabung Volcano on the island of Sumatra.
The Sinabung is one of the approximately 130 active volcanoes in the country, located along the so-called Circle of Fire, a volcanic belt on the margins of the Pacific Ocean, to which the Copahue Volcano also belongs.
In each eruption, this volcano that has been dormant for 400 years, but which woke up in 2010/13 and 14, emits rivers of lava and gases that descend the mountainside, while stones and ash emanate from the crater, leaving victims in its wake. This is why it is important to expand mountain surveillance with this technology, scientists say.
Videos of the eruption of the Bardarbunga volcanoes in Iceland and Mount Yasur, on Tanna Island, in Vanatu in the Pacific, both in activity, recorded with Phantom 2 Ecodrones equipped with a GoPro camera.
Studying volcanoes from the air can be dangerous work for researchers and aircraft alike, so introducing echodrones for volcano survey and monitoring is a new and effective way to gather crucial data on volcanic ash. and the gases they emit.