Taking drones into dangerous territory

The latest partnership between NASA and a company in Boulder is not focused on outer space. But it is part of a mission to send aircraft over dangerous territory, specifically volcanoes.

BOULDER - A Boulder company is planning to take drones into dangerous territory, flying over volcanoes.

They won a NASA grant eyeing a new drone that could help with airplane safety.

“I’m not the scientist, I’m just the guy building the airplane,” said Jack Elston.

He’s a co-founder of Black Swift Technologies. For the next two years the company will use an $875,000 dollar grant from NASA to build two new drones. 

“Hope to better predict the behavior of volcanoes,” said Elston. 

Black Swift Technologies is no stranger to building drones, already deep into this new project, coming up with one that can survive three hours in the air, survive the heat and carry more than cameras.

“Sensors to detect all sorts of trace gases like carbon monoxide,” said Elston.

They need them for NASA’s mission to help with commercial airline safety so flights don’t get disrupted when a volcano erupts.

It happened in 2010 when millions of passengers were stranded.

“The volcano in Iceland erupting canceled a lot of flights and cost a lot of money,” said Elston.

The ash plume led to 95,000 canceled flights.

This will be the company’s most dangerous mission so far, but certainly not their first. They have already been flying into tornadoes and even over the arctic.

 “We did 72 different flights one year and never lost one of them,” said Elston.

The plan is to eventually test the drone in Hawaii and complete the project by 2019.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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