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LiDAR Surveying Makes Short Work Of Volcano Research

LiDAR Surveying Makes Short Work of Volcano Research

As any volcanologist can tell you, studying volcanoes up close and in person can be a dangerous job in a highly dynamic and unstable environment. The more sensitive your instruments are, the better data you can collect from a safer distance. 

When lava starts to erupt and flow, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey head out with their gear, scrambling into position to get their readings.

Keep in mind that with an erupting volcano, you cannot take your time in surveying and mapping. What’s needed is a fast and robust technology that’s equal to a task requiring the capture, storage and analysis of huge amounts of data points. 

To keep up, USGS researchers are using lasers for LiDAR surveying at Halema’uma’u lava lake, Kīlauea summit in Hawaii. 

“This newly-developed instrument monitors lava lake dynamics with unprecedented resolution,” noted the USGS. “The CLR gauge autonomously measures lava lake elevation in real time, using the light-reflecting properties of the lava surface.”

How It Works

The scientists from the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) positioned a Continuous Laser Rangefinder gauge. It was hardened against the volcanic heat and encased to withstand corrosive gas emanating from the volcano. 

They aimed the instrument at a crater, firing one laser pulse per second at 1550 nanometers (an eye-safe wavelength). This created a 1.6-foot diameter footprint on the surface of the ever-shifting lava lake.

A diode on the gauge collects the laser signals. The device’s processor uses this information to determine the distance between it and the lake’s surface. Accuracy is within a centimeter. 

What Does Your Surveying Project Need to Get Started?

While your job requirements for a LiDAR surveying effort may not be so dramatic as what’s involved in keeping track of the changing elevation of an active volcanic region, it pays to work with professionals with years of experience in photogrammetry, such as the team at ACI Corporation. For details about our aerial imaging services and LiDAR expertise, please call us today.

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