Is there a safe way to monitor volcanoes to forecast an unexpected eruption, as happened several weeks ago on Mount Ontake in Japan? There were no significant earthquakes, no steam or gas releases, nothing. More than 50 people are confirmed dead from that incident. Too dangerous you say? Well then send in the robots!
A professor at Tohoku University in Japan has been working on ways to explore remote, potentially dangerous volcanic areas using drone and ground robots working together. Watch Zion the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) and Clover (the ground rover) perform maneuvers on Mount Asama. Clover robots can carry gas sensors and other monitoring devices to gather data to be analyzed.
See another robot, Strawberry, using a robotic claw to collect soil samples for testing:
The robots were tested using a 3G connection from 3km away, but the researchers have also developed a more reliable system to communicate using more small robots as signal relays. We’re looking forward to these robots being tested on active volcanoes in the near future. To see more go to IEEE Spectrum . . .