When Exploring an Underground Abyss, Take a Drone

Last weekend, Flyability, a maker of caged, collision-tolerant unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) took part in an expedition that deployed a drone inside a cave to look at an area that would have otherwise been inaccessible or too dangerous for a human to explore.

The scientific expedition was organized by the La Venta Association and Commissione Grotte Eugenio Boegan, along with the European Space Agency (ESA) and astronaut Luca Parmitano. The trip took place in the La Cucchiara caves near Sciacca, Sicily.

Part of ESA’s Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills course (CAVES-X1), the expedition was primarily for training astronauts in an environment replicating extraterrestrial conditions.

However, it also presented an opportunity for Flyability to deploy its Elios drone in extreme conditions.

According to the company, the known part of the cave consists of a gallery that ends in a 100-meter-deep abyss, which is where the UAV was deployed.

Flying in an ambient temperature of 37 degrees C and 100% humidity, the drone was operated to find potentially unexplored paths. Using Elios’ thermal camera to detect hidden hot air sources, the team could very quickly and clearly identify openings of various sizes, Flyability says, noting that the drone was able to bounce off any obstacles.

Back in the office, the Flyability team was able to go through unique footage “from the depth of the earth,” as the company puts it.


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