A professor at Tohoku University in Japan, Keiji Nagatani, has spent last 10 years developing robotic systems specifically designed to operate in harsh conditions near active volcanoes. Nagatani's aim is to design robots which can go where humans can't and effectively monitor volcanoes with frequent periods of activity.
The focus of his work for the last few years has been on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, in collaboration with ground robots equipped with small sensor packages which are able to directly analyze rock samples.
When an active volcano erupts, it is important to observe the area for forecasting debris flood and/or a pyroclastic flow for inhabitants. However, typically, a restricted area is set, such as within a few kilometers radius of the crater.
Therefore, the Japanese researchers proposed an observation system based on a tele-operated mobile robot via radio communication in active volcanoes.
To evaluate the system, they conducted field tests via 3G communication in Mt. Asama and Mt. Mihara and faced critical situations when the robot stopped all motion because of weakness of communication signal of 3G. To solve the problem, they developed a hybrid connection system with multi-robots that is composed of two radio communication lines explained in the video below:
Nagatani's research group have also been developing a roller type sample-return device, which was hanging down from a multi-rotor UAV, and carried out indoor experiments and outdoor field tests.
The following video shows a new sampling device:
Featured image and videos courtesy of Tohoku University
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