LOS ANGELES – Getting information on volcanic plumes can be perilous work.
The unbearable heat. The noxious gas. The jagged terrain.
So NASA found a new way to carry out the mission without putting its researchers in danger: drones.
Last month, a team of NASA researchers sent three repurposed military drones with special instruments into a sulfur dioxide plume emitted by Costa Rica’s 10,500-foot Turrialba volcano.
The team, led by principal investigator David Pieri of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada-Flintridge, Calif., launched 10 flights involving the small, unmanned spy planes.
The 6-pound, twin-electric-engine planes, called Dragon Eyes, recorded video outside and inside the plume.
The drones also collected data from several remote-sensing instruments, sulfur dioxide and particle sensors, and automatic atmospheric sampling bottles keyed to measure sulfur dioxide concentration.