National Unmanned Aircraft SystemsUAS Project Office

Rapid Response: Volcano Monitoring

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

USGS National Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Project Office and Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of Aviation Services (OAS) equipment and trained personnel were deployed on Thursday, May 17 to support the remote sensing data acquisition needed for the monitoring of the Kilauea Volcano eruptions in Hawaii. Proper authorizations from the Federal Aviation Administration, DOI agencies, and the local Emergency Operations organizations were established and approved for an extended period of UAS operations.

Monitoring of the volcanic activity through use of thermal video imagery and gas sensors on-board the UAS were requested and additional ground mapping of the volcanic fissures around the island are of the highest priorities for geospatial data and will continue to be so into the next few weeks. This near real-time monitoring of the volcano and crater for scientific measurements and modeling should help better predict future activity. In addition, assistance to the local county and fire emergency managers in support of monitoring lava movement toward the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) Hawaiian Electric Plant had an immediate demand for geospatial data. UAS payloads have also been adapted/reconfigured as required to provide periodic assistance to local emergency managers, including investigation of lava-surrounded communities for potentially-stranded people and delivery of live video feeds of lava flow conditions/paths to the EOC in support of emergency evacuation efforts.

May 20, 2018
May 23, 2018

Videos taken from the UAS:

Lava erupting from within the 120-foot-high fissure 8 cinder cone built of chilled lava fragments, July 14, 2018

Fissure 8 view from UAS provides critical geologic information, June 29, 2018

Kīlauea Summit UAS footage shows an ever growing Halema‘uma‘u Crater, June 26, 2018

UAS survey of Halema‘uma‘u crater rim, June 13, 2018

UAS hovering over active lava channel helps in estimating flow velocity, June 6, 2018

UAS mission films details of changes occurring within Halema‘uma‘u crater at Kīlauea's summit, May 31, 2018

USGS UAS mission helps with a successful rescue on May 27, May 27, 2018

UAS mission documents conditions at the Overlook vent, May 30,2018

Lower East Rift Zone UAS flights assist with remote data collection, lava flow mapping, and hazard assessment, May 22, 2018

Aerial imagery of Kīlauea summit activity, May 21, 2018

In the News

Using Drones to Monitor Volcano Activity and Save Lives, Commercial UAV News, June 14, 2018

Interior is Using Drones to Save People Trapped by Hot Lava, Nextgov, June 2, 2018

Researchers Use Drone to Save Man's Life from Hawaii's Lava Flow, Interesting Engineering, June 1, 2018

Drone to the rescue: Hawaii resident saved from Kilauea’s lava flows, Digital Trends, May 30, 2018

How the USGS Used a Drone to Save Someone from Kīlauea’s Lava, Discover Magazine, May 30, 2018