Drones have played another potential first, gathering samples of gas and collecting thermal imaging from an active volcano. It recently took place at Italy’s Mount Etna, located in Sicily. Two DJI models, an Inspire 1 and a Matrice 600, were involved in the work.

In the past, researchers have had to climb to the lip of the crater, then wait for favourable wind conditions to blow the very sulphurous gases their way. On this occasion, however, pilots flew drones directly into the crater to assist with the research, according to a report published in International Business Times.

A DJI Inspire was used with a thermal camera as part of the research. (This Inspire 2 shot there, but was not carrying the thermal camera. DJI image via IBT)

The research was led by University of Mainz volcanologist Prof. Jonathan Castro, who had previously flown his Phantom 2 over the volcano to test out the possibilities. To his surprise, the P2 handled the hot, turbulent and dusty air with relative ease. It was also able to fly at some 3,000 metres above sea level. Those abilities helped convince the professor that a larger-scale research effort using drones would be possible.

During the six-day expedition, the Inspire was fitted with a Zenmuse XT thermal imaging camera to record temperature variations. The Matrice 600 was outfitted with what was described as a “multi-gas measurement box.” Sulphur intensity was measured, and solid particles created by sulphur reacting with moisture were captured. All of this, and more, is apparently very useful data.

“With thousands of people living in the vicinity of volcanoes, we wanted to better understand how they behave,” IBT quoted professor Castro as saying. “Mount Etna has a long and frequent history of lava forming and eruptions. It’s a perfect natural laboratory, but we need to analyse more thoroughly to protect the population in the area.”

Earlier this year, several tourists were injured when Etna let an unanticipated blast go, showering them with rocks. The dramatic, and somewhat horrifying scene was captured on video:

In fact, Etna has wrought absolute devastation on the nearby city of Catania in the past. A series of eruptions in the spring of 1669 killed an estimated 20,000 people. Most of Catania’s streets, and many of its buildings, are constructed with blocks of volcanic rock.

While this particular research may be new, TDC readers will know that DJI drones have previously flown into volcanoes for a well-known documentary Into the Inferno directed by Werner Herzog. In fact, we profiled cinematographer Rob Anderson and his work in this story.

Rob Anderson, aerial, ground (and volcano!) cinematographer

volcano video shoot

The crew of the film, excluding Rob Anderson – who took this photo for Netflix

DRONES TO THE RESCUE

It seems that barely a day goes by without a story about drones being involved in a rescue. And once again, well, you guessed it.

We like these stories because they show just one of the many positive things that drones can do. We also like to think they help negate some of the bad press drones occasionally get because a small number of people do foolish things in the air.

This story comes to us from NBC affiliate KWWL in Iowa. It reports that a rescue crew used a drone to locate and save six people who were lost on the water Sunday night. The local volunteer fire department knew the people missing were on the Yellow River, but they didn’t know where – and it was getting dark.

“By using the drone, crews were able to track down the lost group along the Yellow River within just ten minutes. After dropping a radio to the lost group, crews learned there were three more people missing just down the river,” says the KWWL story (which includes a video).

 “Without the drone, the only way we probably could’ve looked for these people would be a boat on the river,” said Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Cory Snitker. “We would have found a location to start looking for them, and working our way either upstream or downstream and hope that they were along the river at the time and that you can locate them.”

SHORT, SWEET, DJI SALE

Yes, you heard that right. DJI has put a few goodies on sale, with some really cool but time-limited specials.

There are special “Back to School” sale deals on the following products, with some deals valid *only* between now and August 24:

The Spark Fly More Combo is on for $615 (regularly $699)

Gesture control with the DJI Spark

Gesture control with the DJI Spark

The Osmo Mobile is $269 (black or silver, regularly $299)

The Osmo Mobile turns your smartphone into a smart studio

The Mavic Fly More Combo is $1169 (regular $1299)

And finally, the amazing DJI Goggles are $404 instead of $449.

The DJI goggles at the Mavic Pro launch

There are actually even *more* deals on the DJI store.

Remember, these are time-limited deals!