Scientists have unveiled a new drone system for tracking meteorite impacts. They can track up to 81% of falling objects on the planet.
Researchers estimate that every year about 500 meteorites pass through the Earth’s atmosphere and fall to the surface of our planet. Most of them are quite small, and only 2% of them can be found. While most meteorites cannot be recovered due to their falling into oceans or remote, hard-to-reach areas, other meteorite falls are simply not observed or known about.
However, in recent years, new technologies have increased the number of such falls. Doppler radar made it possible to detect more meteorite falls, and networks of all-around cameras made it possible to observe objects. In addition, increased use of vehicle devices and surveillance cameras has resulted in more random sightings and data on potential meteor impacts.
The group has now taken advantage of drones to automatically search for small meteorites. The drones are programmed to fly in a grid-like search pattern over the suspected field of a recent meteorite impact, taking systematic images of the earth. Artificial intelligence (AI) is then used to search for potential meteorites in the images.
Scientists have tested their concept drone on several occasions, mostly in the 2019 meteorite impact area near Lake Walker, Nevada. Their meteorite classifier uses a combination of “various convolutional neural networks to recognize meteorites from images taken by drones in the field.” Its efficiency in a small sample reached 81%.