San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

NASA studies volcanoes in Costa Rica

NASA Earth science researchers last month traveled to Turrialba Volcano, east of the province of Cartago, to conduct testing with a Dragon Eye unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the agency reported Monday on its website.

UAV is a small electrical aircraft equipped with cameras and sensors that were sent into the volcano’s sulfur dioxide plume and over its crater to study Turrialba’s chemical environment.

The project is designed to improve the remote-sensing capability of satellites and computer models to monitor volcanic activity.

The study, called “In Situ Validation and Calibration of Remotely Sensed Volcanic Emission Data and Models,” launched 10 flights between March 11-14 into the volcanic plume and along the rim of the Turrialba summit, approximately 10,500 feet above sea level.

“The volcanoes of Costa Rica provide superb natural laboratories to test and develop these volcanological UAV systems,” NASA said.

A long-term project goal is to develop the means to sample drifting ash and gas in volcanic plumes up to 30,000 feet, which result from large explosive eruptions such as those that crippled aviation traffic in Iceland and Europe in the spring of 2010, the agency added.

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