Earlier this year, Chilean geomatics specialist Geospacio became the first organisation to drone map an active volcano. Its team flew a senseFly eBee over Chile’s Villarrica volcano just two days after it erupted, in March 2015. This team then made the same flight again eighteen days later.
The aim of these flights, which were commissioned by the University of Concepción’s geophysics department, was to create two accurate, up-to-date 3D models of the post-eruption terrain inside the volcano’s crater. The researchers would then compare these models in order to identify and analyse changes in the crater’s morphology; useful for predicting future changes, such as the direction of lava flow in the event of expected future eruptions.
- Geo-referenced orthophotos
- Contour maps (contours every 1-5 m)
- 3D digital point clouds (avg. 30 points / m2)
- Point cloud fly-through animations
- Digital terrain models (DTMs): surfaces & profiles
- Crater profiles
- Crater volume comparison (DTM cut & fill)
- Output file formats: shp, dwg, kml, geoTIFF, LAS, laz
“For decades the Villarrica volcano has shown degassing activity continuing from its crater, however after the eruption volcanic activity dropped to a very low level. It was almost idle,” explains Jaime Soto of Geospacio. “At that time it was necessary to determine whether the volcanic activity would soon recommence, and if so in what form.
“One hypothesis was that the volcano might accumulate too much pressure,” he continues, “causing an eruption of considerable magnitude. Another hypothesis was that its activity would recover gradually. In the first case, it would have been possible to see morphological changes in the base of the cráter, reflecting the increase in pressure, probably in the form of local inflation. In the second, the base of the crater would not change or even sink as persistent degassing continued. Two days after the first drone flight, the volcano began to emit gases, first sporadically and then continuously, confirming the second hypothesis.”
José Luis Palma of the University of Concepción’s geophysics department, adds: “The Villarrica Project demonstrated the great utility of drones during a volcanic crisis. We can use them for volcanic monitoring, when it is very important to capture and analyse data quickly, within one working day, and for hazard analysis, to study in detail how volcanic flows might move in the event of an eruption.”
The Villarrica Project demonstrated the great utility of drones during a volcanic crisis.
Read more about this project (articles in Spanish):
- 24 Horas report (w/VIDEO)
- El Sur newspaper report
- El Daario Austral (Temuco) report
- El Dia report
- Soy Chile report