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Drone to monitor White Island

The latest modernisation of monitoring volcanoes has seen a drone being assigned to help monitor New Zealand’s most active volcano, White Island.

GNS Science volcanologist Brad Scott said unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) or, drones, have become a useful tool in going places that are often difficult or dangerous for people to visit.

Writing on the GeoNet website Dr Scott said GNS Science in June mapped the eruption deposits at Waimangu by UAV and more recently used them extensively to map the fault displacements and landslides created by the magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake.

In late December the team was able to fly the active crater at White Island.

“While we have the volcano cams on the island, these are stationary and don’t give us the kind of rich data that a drone can. Since the eruption in late April last year the vent area has often been obscured by steam and gas and a small lake also formed for a while.

“This made it difficult to fully assess the changes to the active crater area. We were able to work out the crater floor was lowered by about 13 metres but couldn’t accurately estimate the volume of material erupted as we didn’t have a before and after map.”

Scott said understanding the volumes involved, distances material was moved helps to better interpret the impacts and mechanism of the April eruption.

GNS Science was able to obtain images of the active crater area usually obscured by the gas and steam plume so we could make a new map and digital terrain model (DTM) of the area.

He said the team knew some of the crater floor was lowered about 13 m by the April eruption, but didn’t have any data on the vent area.

The UAV technician has processed images and video captured on the day and is now compiling the DTM and surface maps.

“They are really impressive and are giving us a new insight to the changes within the active crater,” he added.

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