BVLOS Operations of Fixed-Wing UAVs for the Collection of Volcanic Ash Above Fuego Volcano, Guatemala

Ben J Schellenberg, Tom Richardson (Contributor), Robert J Clarke (Contributor), Matt Watson (Contributor), Jim Freer (Contributor), Alex Mcconville (Contributor), Gustavo Chigna (Contributor)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper

8 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a series of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flights that came about as the culmination of a method development project, collecting ash from volcanic plumes. Ash sampling from within plumes provides vital knowledge to improve volcanic ash-dispersion models, outputs that are used in hazard assessments including air traffic control. Ash was collected from numerous erupting plumes obtained from 17 flights around Fuego volcano, Guatemala, in March 2019. Fuego is a highly active volcano and regularly causes disruption to air traffic and also multiple hazards for the local population. Ash sampling from within eruption plumes is therefore a unique engineering challenge. Plumes were intersected at various stages of dispersal, including dense turbulent plumes from very recent eruptions close to the crater. The methods presented in this paper report the successful operation of UAVs in a hostile environment, flying sorties over 9km from launch with altitudes of 5400m above mean sea level in a safe and reliable manner. This paper will present data that details key factors found to influence mission efficiency and performance, and discuss areas in which future efforts might focus in order to further increase operational efficiency.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2020
EventAIAA SciTech Forum 2020 - Hyatt Regency Orlando, Orlando, United States
Duration: 6 Jan 202010 Jan 2020


ConferenceAIAA SciTech Forum 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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