The study of volcanoes from the air can be a dangerous job for both researchers and aircraft. To enter this hazardous airspace, unmanned vehicles (UAVs), particularly those with little electric motors that ingest contaminated air, are a new and effective way to gather crucial data on volcanic ash and gases form.
Last month, a team of NASA researchers deployed three military UAV just two kilos of weight and a meter scale with special instruments above the cloud of noxious sulfur dioxide active volcano in Costa Rica Turrialba, near San José.
The project was designed to improve the ability of remote sensing satellites, including maps of concentration and distribution of volcanic gases. It was also designed to improve computer models of how and where volcanic plumes will move.
During the flights, the team coordinated the collection of emission data obtained with spaceborne NASA, allowing scientists to compare measurements of sulfur dioxide concentrations from satellite measurements taken from inside the pen volcano.
Scientists believe that computer models derived from this study will help to improve predictions of global climate and mitigate environmental risks (eg, volcanic sulfur dioxide or “VOG”) for people living near volcanoes.
A key component of these modelsis the intensity and character of volcanic activity located near the eruption vent. For example, knowing the height of the ash and gas concentrations and temperatures during an eruption are important initial factors for any model that predicts the direction of the volcanic cloud.
“It is very difficult to gather data from volcanic eruption columns and feathers as the rising wind speeds are very high and high ash concentrations can rapidly destroy the engines of aircraft,” said David Pieri, senior researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory NASA.
“These flight environments can be very dangerous for manned aircraft. Volcanic plumes can extend kilometers from the summit and detached ash clouds can travel hundreds to thousands of kilometers,” he added.