Puna lava mosaic
Excerpt of a mosaic

Reporters from Canada’s Discovery Channel spent a day with researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi at Hilo to film the scientists’ work on mapping the lava flow in Puna.

The UH Hilo research team is using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a Swinglet CAM by Sensefly, fitted with a high resolution camera for collecting still imagery. The captured images are later merged into a large mosaic, creating a high resolution map for use by Civil Defense emergency planners.

The UH Hilo flight team includes Ryan Perroy, assistant professor of geography and environmental science; Nicolas Turner, cyber computer programming analyst and Arthur Cunningham, consultant for aeronautical science.

group of people standing by lava
Research Team on a previous mapping trip, from left, Matt Patrick, Frank Trusdell, Asia Addlesberger, Tim Orr, Ryan Perroy, Nicolas Turner and Jonathan Price.

The Discovery Chanel’s video includes an excellent explanation of how the mapping is done from the UAV flights in the field to the data analysis and mosaic creation done at the UH Hilo Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Laboratory.

“The UAV flies about 150 meters high in a grid pattern, kind of like a lawn mower,” explains the narrator in the video about the technique used to capture the images. “(In the lab) Ryan loads the photos into a software program that stitches them together into one big topographical map.”

Perroy explains, “The map is called an orthomosaic, and with the ground control information, which is incorporated into that, you get a very beautiful and very interesting and highly detailed large photo of the mission area.”

A UH Hilo Stories

—By Susan Enright