Volcano monitoring has always been a crucial part in the early evacuation process for the people living in its viscinity. The use of drones has been considered and tested lately, with researchers at Bali Indonesia deploying a gas-sampling drone to monitor Mount Agung. The drone is estimated to be worth around $45,000 (600 million Indonesian Rupees), but was however reported missing as of January this year. The drone was last spotted flying near the crater of the highly active volcano, battling high winds and a vicious cloud of smoke before it disappeared from the radar.
But it seems drones may have met a larger role to play in the detection of volcanic activity around the world. Aside from mere gas-sampling, drones have been proposed to carry instruments that can collect even more data on the volcano’s area. An engineering firm from Colorado named Black Swift Technologies has shown interest in creating CO2-analysing drones, which can aid greatly in volcanic activity monitoring. Partnered with NASA’s own Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the drones have been deployed and have had successful trail runs around an active volcano in Costa Rica.
The drone itself, named Black Swift S2, was equipped with sensors that measure the volcanic area’s carbon dioxide concentration and water vapor output. They hope to add several key features to the drone sometime in the near future as well. Priorities involving methane detection, along with sensors that measure hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide are in demand to paint a more accurate picture of the volcanic activity. A Nephelometer, an instrument for measuring the size and concentration of particles suspended in a liquid or gas, is also considered to be placed on the drone’s arsenal. Other data that the drone may someday (in the near future) be able to measure include pressure, temperature, humidity, and even three dimensional data on the wind patterns around the volcanic area.
Drones have been considered in these dangerous and critical missions for the same reason they are on high demand with city surveillance, security on dangerous situations, and even seed distribution: they cost less than training a group of individuals to do the tests, while also being more accurate, more efficient, and of course, negating any risk for human injury or loss of life.