Inside Unmanned Systems

FEB-MAR 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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AIR RESEARCH 20   February/March 2018 unmanned systems inside camping, and nights were really cold, so we kept the batteries in an insulated bag with a bunch of hand warmers. The batteries were much cozier than us! Rain is not good for the electronics, for obvious reasons, and we try to avoid it." "Mostly, my strategy is that safety comes first, and that the pilot should wait for better conditions," Lev said. "Nothing is worth losing your equipment, or an injury suffered when trying to recover it from a crash." Despite these challenges, drones have prov- en a great resource for these scientists. "Drones are giving us an entirely new perspec- tive on the level of detail of informa- tion that is recorded in the terrain," Lev said. "We don't need to keep using qualitative and subjective terminology like 'blocky,' slabby,' and so on—now there can be numbers put to these [terms], and the field can move to a much more quantitative realm." Analyzing Volcanic Gases Instead of investigating lava f lows, Jonathan Castro, a professor of volcanolog y at the University of Mainz in Germany, and his col- leagues are using drones to examine gases emitted from volcanoes. The hope is that such research could reveal that the composition of the gases might serve as a predictive tool that "may indicate that an eruption will happen," Castro said. Castro and his colleag ues have f low n drones over Europe's most active volcano, Mount Etna in Sicily, as well as the recent- ly active volcanoes of Chaitén and Cordón Caulle in Chile. "Drones will pave the way to make volcanology much safer because they al- low us to collect samples and see things with video and thermal infrared cameras in very out-of-the-way places," Castro said. The researchers use drones to analyze gases above craters and other points of emission. The aim is to examine gases before they get diluted by the atmosphere. "The data is very pristine and complements what we measure in rocks with other analytical techniques like electron microprobes," Castro said. Current gas sensors can measure chemicals in the parts-per-million range. "Carbon diox- ide can be measured to tens of parts per mil- lion, while sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide can be measured down to a few parts per mil- lion," Castro said. Castro and his colleagues have worked with a range of drones, such as the DJI Inspire 1 Pro, the DJI Matrice 600, and the DJI S1000+. "These drones are incredibly agile and fast, even at high altitudes, as many volcanoes are," Castro said. Because they need to collect data from cra- ters and vents, stable f light is more important to researchers than speed. "When the wind gets up, however, is when it pays off to have a fast drone that can hold a position lock despite high cross winds," Castro said. Although drones help the researchers oper- ate at a distance from craters and vents, bat- tery limitations mean they still have to hike relatively close to active volcanoes. "Flying in and around volcanoes is hazardous for the pi- lot too because of potential unforeseen erup- tive processes, unstable ground, and toxic gas in the ambient environment," Castro said. Currently, the drones the scientists use can f ly up to 24 minutes. Castro hopes future work can employ drones with greater f light times, which would translate "to greater f light distances and perhaps less danger for the scientist," he said. Major hazards the drones face with f lying around active volcanoes are updrafts and downdrafts. "Downdrafts are much more dangerous because they push the drone into the crater, which in turn can result in the loss of connection," Castro said. "This happened a few times on Etna." Castro explained that a volcanic crater "is like a funnel operating in reverse. Gas streams "THE SYSTEM IS DESIGNED TO FLY THROUGH A VOLCANIC PLUME AND GIVE BACK NEAR- REAL-TIME DATA." Jack Elston, co-founder, president and CEO, Black Swift Technologies

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