…for science! Made possible thanks to camera-outfitted drones, filmmaker Sam Cossman took a team the edge of Ambrym Volcano‘s Marum Crater to 3D map its 7.5-mile-wide (12-kilometer) caldera and the spectacular lava lake at its core. Not all of the drones survived the expedition.

From Wired’s Drone Vs. Volcano: How Robotic Flyers are Changing Exploration, astrobiologist Jeff Marlow writes about the expedition, and drone expert Simon Jardine describes what it was like to fly new technology over this ancient, ever-changing window into our planet:

“The hardest part of flying was the hot air rushing out and cold air getting pulled into the lake. The machine would surge forwards and I would pull back on the stick. Then the hot air would blow in my face 10 times hotter than a hairdryer, and I could see the copter blasting back at me…”

The results will help scientists better understand the volcano, and really showcases how these highly-controlled flying cameras might advance science and exploration:

Read more at National Geographic, including details on the special, protective suit that allowed them to get a closer look. Cossman explains:

In order to approach the 2,000 degree F lava in close range, I wore a custom-built industrial proximity heat suit with an aluminized fiberglass shell and Nomex, fire retardant liner. The suit is built to withstand radiant temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees F. I worked with and was supported by NEWTEX, a pioneer in the niche thermal management apparel industry. The heat-protective face shield is constructed from a polycarbonate, gold-plated lens to filter out strong infra-red and ultra-violet radiation while still absorbing visible light. This is the same material used on spacecraft and astronaut visors.

Related videos include Eruption at Iceland’s Bardabunga Volcano, When a Volcano Erupts Underwater, and in a different kind of hostile environment: Testing a Space Rover Under Alaskan Ice.

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