(ABOVE VIDEO) Story features video from the County of Hawaii and the voice of Sherry Bracken.
As lava slowly oozed its way into Pahoa last week, University of Hawaii at Hilo researchers were out on the flow field, providing aerial imagery to emergency res ponders. The flight team is just one example of how the flow field is not just a hotbed of pahoehoe, but of innovation. Scientists and engineers are hard at work across the June 27 lava flow, testing ideas that will hopefully protect critical infrastructure downslope.
Included in this report: The State Department of Transportation, which is looking at the possibility of creating a passage over the lava while its still active. Last week crews were busy on Apa’a Street, testing different aggregate material on the inflated flow. Also, the most dramatic of lava experiments… HELCO’s attempt to protect utility infrastructure.
The June 27 lava flow is spurring innovation and promoting collaboration despite its threat to the Puna community and the utility infrastructure that lies in its path.
Hawai‘i Electric Light would like to thank the many people who shared their ideas for protecting utility infrastructure from the lava’s extreme heat. The design process started in late August and involved numerous drafts. Multiple factors were considered, and the final design was a collaborative effort between Hawai‘i Electric Light, the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The partnership was instrumental in helping the company understand the characteristics of lava and how to best reduce the short and long-term heat impact to the infrastructure. Our partners continue to assist us with post-impact evaluations. The key contributors were:
Hawai‘i Electric Light
· Michael Iwahashi, Assistant Superintendent, Construction & Maintenance
· Construction & Maintenance Division
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo
· Dr. Kenneth Hon, Professor of Geology
U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
· Tim Orr, Geologist
· Matthew Patrick, Geologist
Among those submitting a pole protection design was Hawai‘i Academy of Arts and Science (HAAS) Public Charter School in Pahoa. Although the design was not used, Hawai‘i Electric Light recognizes their innovation which paralleled the efforts of experienced professionals.
The design was created by high school students in the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) program. Their assignment began with a question: “What can you do to help the community?
“Our STEM class firmly feels necessity is the mother of invention,” said Eric Clause, lead STEM instructor. “When the students designed the power pole barriers, we looked at using materials that were ready and available and would work under the harsh conditions a lava flow would pose. We were really stoked when HELCO released similar design plans.”
The students are Maya Anderson, Michael Dodge, Jordan Drewer, Henry LaPointe, Lyric Peat, Chalongrat Boat Prakopdee, and Logan James Treaster. In addition to the pole protection design, the STEM students designed an air purifier that can filter hydrogen sulfide, a heat resistant bridge that is cooled by flowing clean water, and a desalinization system that can provide quality drinking water. Some students also are involved in the Hope for HAAS project using social media to raise funds to help HAAS accommodate displaced students in areas affected by the flow.
“Hawai‘i Electric Light applauds the students at HAAS for their innovation, creativity, and foresight,” said spokeswoman Rhea Lee. “With a lava flow headed their way, they responded proactively and not only developed a conceptual design to help protect power poles, but searched for other ways to help the community in which they live. These are qualities that we value and look for in our employees.HELCO media release on Nov. 1, 2014
Researchers from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo successfully mapped the active flow front of the June 27, 2014 Kilauea lava flow on Hawai‘i Island with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on October 22. In a collaborative partnership with Hawai‘i County Civil Defense and the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the flight team from the UH Hilo Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization (SDAV) Laboratory used a Sensefly SwingletCAM with a visible camera to collect high resolution stills later merged into a mosaic for use by Civil Defense emergency planners.
The UH Hilo flight team includes Ryan Perroy, assistant professor of geography and environmental science, Nicolas Turner, SDAV cyber computer programming analyst, and Arthur Cunningham, consultant for aeronautical science.
“The lava flow has already impacted the lives of many residents in Puna,” said Perroy. “Our UAV support can provide quick and accurate information to emergency responders.”
The team closely monitored the flight performance of the UAV aircraft as it travelled over the lava and noted minor turbulence as it crossed the thermally dynamic environment. A County helicopter provided support with an air observer on board from the UAV team during flight operations.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office of the Federal Aviation Administration worked closely with the Hilo research team on approval of their Certificate of Authorization. The flights are in direct support of disaster relief operations in the area and the FAA and flight team worked together to make sure all safety concerns were met.
The lava flow is headed toward the town of Pahoa in the district of Puna, threatening to cut off the main highway and other access roads, thus isolating an area of about 10,000 residents from the rest of the island.
The researchers plan to fly again and continue supporting relief operations with quick aerial assessments when needed. Sensefly representatives are closely monitoring and supporting the team’s mapping relief effort and are at-the-ready with additional equipment should it be needed.UH-Hilo media release on Oct. 29, 2014