The drone was taught to predict volcanic eruptions. To do this, the device calculates the ratio of sulfur to carbon dioxide in oxygen.
The researchers explained that the device can primarily be used in the most dangerous parts of the planet: Mount Saint Helena, Vesuvius, Krakatoa – they have repeatedly caught people off guard and inflicted devastating damage. But with the help of unmanned aerial vehicles, an international team of scientists from the United States and seven other countries have developed a system to better predict when an active volcano will erupt.
To do this, researchers traveled to Papua New Guinea to study the Manam volcano. They brought DJI Phantom drones with them, modifying them with components such as miniature gas sensors and spectrometers. The team flew the drones near active vents on the volcano’s surface, collecting samples and taking measurements.
The data allowed the team to calculate the sulfur to carbon dioxide ratio around them – they say this data is critical to determining the likelihood of an eruption, as it helps volcanologists identify the source of the volcano’s magma. In addition, the data collected will also help scientists better understand how volcanoes are contributing to the global carbon cycle, which will deepen their understanding of climate change.
The team published the results in the journal Frontiers in Robotics. Professor Alessandro Ayuppa, one of the co-authors of the report, noted that with the help of these devices, people do not “have to guess when the next eruption will occur.”
This is not the first time that scientists have used drones as an early warning system for emergencies. In early 2020, another group of researchers developed a communications system that allowed a network of unmanned aerial vehicles to provide early warning of natural disasters.