How can drones be used in the prediction of volcanic eruptions

Specially adapted drones, developed by an international team led by UCL, have collected data from volcanoes that have never been explored, which will allow local communities to better predict future volcanic eruptions.

State-of-the-art research at Manam Volcano in Papua New Guinea improves scientists’ understanding of how volcanoes contribute to the global carbon cycle, key to sustaining life on Earth.

The team’s findings, published in Science Advances, show for the first time how it is possible to combine measurements from the air, earth and space to learn more about the most inaccessible highly active volcanoes on the planet.

The ABOVE project involved specialists from the UK, USA, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, covering volcanology and aerospace engineering.

By combining aerial measurements at the site with results from satellites and ground-based sensors, researchers can gather a much richer set of data than was previously possible. This allows them to monitor active volcanoes from a distance, improving their understanding of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is released by volcanoes globally and, more importantly, by where this carbon comes from.

With a diameter of 10 km, Manam volcano is located on an island 13 km off the northeast coast of the continent, at 1,800 meters above sea level.

Specially adapted drones, developed by an international team led by UCL, have collected data from volcanoes that have not been explored so far, which will allow local communities to better predict future eruptions. State-of-the-art research at Papua New Guinea’s Manam Volcano is improving understanding of how volcanoes contribute to the global carbon cycle, which is key to sustaining life on Earth.

The team’s findings, published in Science Advances, show for the first time how it is possible to combine measurements from the air, earth and space, to learn more about the most inaccessible and extremely active volcanoes on planet.

The ABOVE project involved specialists from the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, including volcanology and aerospace engineering. They co-created solutions to the challenges of measuring gas emissions from active volcanoes by using modified long-range drones.

Following the fieldwork, the researchers raised funds to buy computers, solar panels and other technologies to enable the local community – which has since formed a disaster preparedness group – to communicate via satellite from the island and provide training in drone operations and assist in monitoring efforts.

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