U.S. researchers are developing a new robust wireless communication systems for Mount St. Helens. With the help of a $1.63 million NASA grant, they've developed a dozen of smart robotic sensors which talk to each other and send information to a central information hub, the Johnston Ridge Observatory located atop the Mount St. Helens visitor center. But this wireless network is just a pilot program. The researchers want to use these sensors for other emergency applications, such as a mine collapse or a terrorist attack destroying traditional networks. But read more...
You can see above the in-situ sensor web architecture deployed on Mount. St. Helens: "Sensor-nodes form logical clusters for network management and situation awareness; data flow forms a dynamic data diffusion tree rooted at gateway; smart bandwidth and power management according to environmental changes and mission needs; remote control center manages network and data, and interacts with space assets and Internet." (Credit: Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV)) Here is a link to a larger version of this figure.
And you can see above the volcano sensor web infrastructure. "Currently, a high-bandwidth microwave link has been established between Mount. St. Helens and WSU Vancouver campus, with the generous support from USGS." (Credit: WSUV) Here is a link to a larger version of this picture.
This research work has been led by Wenzhan Song, Assistant Professor and Director of the Sensorweb Research Laboratory at the Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV). He worked with volcanologist Rick LaHusen of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Let's now look back at the article from The Columbian for some short quotes describing the successful deployment of the first sensors. "The sensors are powered by industrial-strength alkaline batteries packed into weather-proof, white boxes and secured onto four-foot, three-legged metal 'spiders.' Toddling inside Mount St. Helens moonlike crater, they resemble the homing spider droids from Star Wars, which, incidentally, are also equipped with sensors. Last week, on deployment day, the sensors worked beautifully. The first node immediately connected with Johnston Ridge Observatory, the central hub, located atop the Mount St. Helens visitor center to the north. As the second sensor was being flown by helicopter to the crater, it fired up and connected with the sensor in the crater and the yet-to-be deployed sensors on the ground. 'WenZhan was really excited,' LaHusen said. 'He was dancing around."
You'll find additional details at the OASIS project website (Optimized Autonomous Space In-Situ Sensorweb) at WSUV. "An erupting volcano provides a challenging environment to examine and advance in-situ sensor-web technology. The crater at Mount St. Helens is a dynamic 3-dimensional communication environment, with batteries as the only reliable energy source. Various geophysical and geochemical sensors generate continuous high-fidelity data, whose priority depends on volcano status. There is a compelling need for real-time data, and sensors are destroyed occasionally by the eruption. Hence, an in-situ network must be self-configuring and self-healing, with a smart power and bandwidth management scheme, and autonomous in-network processing." Please note that the above images have been extracted from this website.
Finally, for more information about this research project, here are some links to explore.
Sources: Isolde Raftery, The Columbian, WA, October 26, 2008; and various websites
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