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Recent growth in the business of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) both in the US and abroad has improved their overall capability, resulting in a reduction in cost, greater reliability and adoption into areas where they had previously not been considered. Uses in coastal and border patrol, forestry and agriculture have recently been evaluated in an effort to expand the observed area and reduce surveillance and reconnaissance costs for information gathering. The scientific community has both contributed and benefited greatly in this development. A larger suite of light-weight miniaturized sensors now exists for a range of applications which in turn has led to an increase in the gathering of information from these autonomous vehicles. In October 2004 the first eruption of Mount St Helens since 1986 caused tremendous interest amoUg people worldwide. Volcanologists at the U.S. Geological Survey rapidly ramped up the level of monitoring using a variety of ground-based sensors deployed in the crater and on the flanks of the volcano using manned helicopters. In order to develop additional unmanned sensing methods that can be used in potentially hazardous and low visibility conditions, a UAV experiment was conducted during the ongoing eruption early in November. The Silver Fox UAV was flown over and inside the crater to perform routine observation and data gathering, thereby demonstrating a technology that could reduce physical risk to scientists and other field operatives. It was demonstrated that UAVs can be flown autonomously at an active volcano and can deliver real time data to a remote location. Although still relatively limited in extent, these initial flights provided information on volcanic activity and thermal conditions within the crater and at the new (2004) lava dome. The flights demonstrated that readily available visual and infrared video sensors mounted in a small and relatively low-cost aerial platform can provide useful data on volcanic phenomena. This was made possible by utilizing GPS and computer-controlled flight direction and stabilization to acquire and track target areas within the Mount St. Helens crater. It was also determined that additional light-weight sensor development will be needed to enable autonomous measurements of volcanic gasses and imaging in poor-weather conditions. Copyright ?? 2005 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Volcano surveillance by ACR silver fox
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InfoTech at Aerospace: Advancing Contemporary Aerospace Technologies and Their Integration