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A View from Kristina Grifantini

Mesh Network Monitors Volcanoes

Sensors dropped onto Mount St. Helens relayed data after forming an ad-hoc network.

  • June 22, 2009

Credit: ACM

Today kicks off the three-day MobiSys 2009 conference in Krakow, Poland–a showcase of emerging mobile and wireless technology. And one paper that caught my eye comes from Washington State University and the U.S. Geological Survey. WSU Researchers will present a paper that shows how an air-dropped mesh sensor network can monitor volcanoes in real time.

Traditionally, scientists have had to use data loggers and permanent installations to send volcanic data back to observatories. But the WSU researchers dropped five mobile stations via helicopter, each 2 kilometers apart, on treacherous terrain on Mount St. Helens in Washington State. Despite rain, snow and over 120 mph winds, the stations formed a mesh network to successfully relay real-time data for a month and a half. Each mobile station is a three-legged structure, about a meter tall 3 kilograms. Inside is a battery-powered iMote2 platform, a GPS receiver, and sensors. The team used an accelerometer to detect seismic activity, an infrasonic sensor to capture low-frequency acoustic waves resulting from eruptions, and a lightning sensor that can detect strikes up to 10 kilometers away. Each node automatically increases the number of samples it takes once it detects an event. But a user can configure and control the sensors via the Web.

Lead researcher and assistant professor at WSU Wen-Zhan Song says that the rapidly deployable system, “has particular value during periods of volcanic unrest but is also useful for longer term monitoring.”

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