Above and Beyond: Measuring volcanic emissions with drone technology
Aerial-based Observations of Volcanic Emissions (ABOVE) is an international collaborative project that is changing the way we sample volcanic gas emissions. Harnessing recent advances in drone technology, unoccupied aerial systems (UAS) in the ABOVE fleet are able to acquire aerial measurements of volcanic gases directly from within previously inaccessible volcanic plumes.
Filmmaker Zach Voss of Retroscope Media accompanied the science team to document what it’s like to sample volcanoes in such a remote environment. Based in Boise, Idaho, Zach has provided a spectacular glimpse into the challenges, successes, and experiences of field research at the cutting edge of technology.
This project transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries, bringing together scientists, aerospace engineers, and pilots to target some of the world’s most inaccessible but strongly degassing volcanoes. In May 2019, a team of 30 researchers undertook an ambitious field deployment to two volcanoes – Tavurvur (Rabaul) and Manam in Papua New Guinea – both amongst the most prodigious emitters of sulphur dioxide on Earth, and yet lacking any measurements of how much carbon they emit to the atmosphere.