Active volcanoes are typically something to steer clear of, but for volcanologists, it’s their job to study these dangerous phenomena. Fortunately, they are now able to get up close and personal with active volcanoes without risking their own safety with the help of drones.
Led by PhD candidate Edgar Zorn, a team of researchers from the German Research Centre for Geosciences successfully used a DJI Phantom 4 Pro quadcopter with a FLIR TAU 2 thermal imaging camera to observe the active Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala. Footage from the onboard 4K optical camera was digitally combined with that from the FLIR camera to create both visual and thermal imagery. The detailed images were then used to create a 3D model of the volcano with centimeter-scale accuracy.
The tool allowed the researchers to obtain information they would not have been able to from on-the-ground observations including the lava’s flow pattern and velocity as well as the volcano’s surface temperature. These specifics allow researchers to more accurately predict eruptions and protect surrounding communities.