LiDAR Surveys Provide Insights into Kilauea Eruption

LiDAR helps first responders, scientists, and government agencies monitor conditions, predict future lava flows and protect Hawaiian residents.

Kilauea eruptionQuantum Spatial Inc., (QSI) conducted high-resolution LiDAR surveys of areas surrounding the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii during eruptions. This emergency response effort was part of the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Rapid Response Imagery Products (RRIP) in support of the Kilauea’s 2018 East Rift Zone - Remote Sensing Acquisition Requirement. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO)—along with emergency responders, government agencies, and academics—will use the data to better understand the conditions and characteristics of the Kilauea volcano, which was continually erupting starting on May 3. Data also will assist planners in modeling potential lava flows, which may better predict and respond to future flows and enhance the safety of residents.

The USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP) selected QSI to perform the first of two planned surveys over the active volcanic area. The QSI team, which included GEO1 and Windward Aviation, deployed within days to acquire high-resolution LiDAR at point densities averaging from 40 to 80 ppsm, with up to 150 ppsm in select areas and 100 mp digital imagery, using a Riegl dual VUX-1 LR sensor pod equipped with ABGPS/IMU mounted on a Hughes 500D helicopter.

Five distinct locations, covering an area of 57 square miles, were targeted: K’lauea Summit Caldera, Pu’u O’o Crater and flow, Chain of Craters Road / Kaoe, Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) and Western Leilani Estates lava field.

The project required 11 missions over the course of six days, operating at times as low as 500 feet above the ground and above active flows and nearby erupting calderas. With a need for a quick turaround, QSI deployed an analyst with the flight crew to post process each mission within hours of collection. The data was uploaded to the Geospatial Repository and Data Management System (GRiD) interface, developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), where additional data products have been developed and provided to the response team that includes FEMA, Hawaii’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and the Hawaii County Civil Defense.

After data collection, QSI measured topographic shifts during the processing by comparing new data with a 2011 LiDAR collection from the same area. Survey specialists and USGS experts confirmed within hours of processing QSI’s LiDAR data that areas within the site had shifted up to 1.5 meters east, 2 meters to the north and 1 meter in elevation. USGS scientists will continue to examine the new topographic data to better understand the nature of these shifts and integrate it into lava flow models for more accurate predictive modeling.

Kilauea eruption“Airborne LiDAR and imagery remote sensing surveys are invaluable tools for understanding the effects of active volcanic eruptions, which change the topography as fissures emerge and lava flows extend to the ocean,” says Michael Shillenn, vice president at QSI. “We were honored to work with the USGS and others on this critical project. We believe that data and analysis provided by the QSI team will provide insights into future scenarios, enabling emergency responders to protect the surrounding community.”