Emergency Management and Homeland Security Monitor Lava Flows in Hawaii

EMHS Director David Merrick and Program Coordinator Laura Hart recently returned from Kilauea Volcano Lower East Rift Zone in Hawaii County, Hawaii. Through NSF funding and in partnership with Texas A&M University and private citizens, they were part of a five-person volunteer team from the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) to supplement existing small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) capabilities from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, as well as to provide expertise in tactical sUAS operations.

In the week that Mr. Merrick and Ms. Hart were deployed, they flew over 40 flights, 16 of which were at night, with sUAS (or “drones”) so as to identify at least one new volcanic fissure and provide data to help determine the accelerating rate of lava flow. Additionally, the CRASAR team flew missions to determine SO2 emissions, map fissures, supply tactical situational awareness, and reduce risks and costs of manned helicopter flights. Altogether, this was the first known use of sUAS for emergency response to a volcanic eruption, as well as the first time sUAS has been used for sampling air quality at a disaster. The EMHS Program is so proud of the hard and innovative work done by our drone team. We will continue to partner with CRASAR for more exciting projects in the future!

Laura Hart (far left) and David Merrick (second from left) flying missions with CRASAR in Hawaii.


Bobby Duggleby is the Outreach Coordinator for the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program at FSU.


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