Bali’s drone adventurers approach epic flight over Mt Agung’s crater

UBUD, Indonesia: A tiny hand-produced plane lies nonetheless within a bamboo shack. Its wings – light with shiny orange stripes – are stacked atop a single a further, future to a remote control, notebook, wires and rotors.

If every little thing goes as prepared, it will be the to start with drone to ever soar previously mentioned Mount Agung’s crater as the sacred volcano of Bali verges on what could be an imminent eruption.

“We want to reach the crater and see what is taking place within,” Azhar T Pangesti advised Channel NewsAsia just after a pair of examination flights on the black seaside of Siyut.

Even more up in the northeast, fewer than 40km away, Mount Agung is brewing.

The summit of Mount Agung can be witnessed at the rear of the clouds. Its peak of additional than three,000 metres previously mentioned sea level marks the best level in Bali. (Picture: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Around the previous couple weeks, additional than 600 volcanic earthquakes have been detected about the mountain just about every day. Aside from the higher frequency, seismologists have also recorded the swelling of Mount Agung, potent magnitudes of the quakes and plumes of warm gasoline seeping as a result of its crater’s floor.

For them, these are worrying signals that a volcanic eruption could rock Bali at any instant. For some a hundred and forty,000 citizens on the island, it suggests prospective hazard and evacuation.

Far more than one,000 persons were killed and several villages devastated when Mount Agung erupted 54 decades in the past. Anticipating a prospective disaster, the Indonesian authorities is producing preparations to reduce reduction of life, together with relocating citizens in hazard-vulnerable locations to safer places.

Azhar and drone enthusiasts put together an plane for a examination flight on Siyut Seaside. (Picture: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Though seismologists continue on to notice the volcanic actions as a result of graphs and figures, a group of curious locals are trying to do the same utilizing a drone. They hope to offer a nearer seem within its significant crater – the kind of visuals the community can very easily fully grasp – prior to it results in being unachievable.

“Everyone is on red alert. The news is all over the area. Some persons have shared questionable photos on Fb and there is confusion,” reported the 35-yr-outdated entrepreneur from Bandung, introducing reputable information now only arrives from volcanologists.

But facts from seismographs isn’t for the community to interpret. So just about anything visible from the crater, we hope, would deliver some clarity.


Calling himself a geek, Azhar is a important member of a new Bali-based initiative dubbed Mata Agung, that means the Eyes of Agung.

Its intention is to watch the volcano’s creating condition as a result of audio-visible imagery equipped by tech-savvy Indonesians, who share the same enthusiasm for movie, pictures and aerial technologies.

“Mata Agung is an initiative backed by tiny communities, brought with each other by the cisis,” reported Azhar.

“We’re watching the mountain.”

A photograph taken by a drone exhibits Mount Agung, an active volcano in Bali. (Picture: Azhar T Pangesti)

The important drive at the rear of this civil observe is a absence of current photos and videos of the active volcano amid an inflow of information about its disorders.

To counter on the web inaccuracies, the contributors are utilizing gear their have to offer the community with the latest updates on Mount Agung, producing an option supply of information that tasks its latest condition as a result of uncomplicated visuals.

“Although the most essential information arrives from the industry experts, we – the common persons – also want to see the condition in photos and videos,” reported Kadek Lebah, a drone enthusiast and member of Mata Agung.

“This way, they’d be fewer curious.”

“We’re watching the mountain.” (Picture: Azhar T Pangesti)

General public observation of Mount Agung has turn into additional difficult considering that the authorities declared zero community actions must continue to be within just the exclusion zone – a hazard-vulnerable region masking a 12km radius from the mountain’s peak.

As a end result, Mata Agung member Cyrillius Wahyu Dwi Nugroho has been streaming live imagery of the volcano on YouTube, utilizing a CCTV digital camera attached to a GSM community in a harmless zone.

For aeronautic enthusiasts this kind of as Azhar, however, an even clearer picture is attainable from the sky.

“During this period, it’s generally cloudy. There is no distinct view of the mountain most of the day. But from better up, we can see the crater. So the sky in the way to go.”

A drone flyer watches digital camera feeds from an unmanned aerial plane in the course of its examination flight, utilizing FPV (Very first Individual View) goggles. (Picture: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

If they manage to photograph the crater, the crew designs to post the visible effects to volcanologists, as they consider aerial pictures could support them evaluate the condition additional proficiently.

“The officials could already have gear to detect volcanic actions but they do not have just about anything that seize the volcano visually,” Azhar reported.

“So we are trying to supply a further point of view of the mountain and it’s from the air.”

Head of Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geological Catastrophe Mitigation Centre Gede Suantika welcomed the idea, indicating photos of the crater would support them far better analyse Mount Agung’s disorders.

“If they fly the drone from a harmless region and reach the volcano’s crater, it would be great for us,” he advised Channel NewsAsia. 

We can use the photos or videos to analyse the improve in colour of the steam at the summit. It’d be really practical for us.


Azhar’s curiosity in unmanned aerial autos (UAVs) began 7 decades in the past, when he was working a video generation company in Singapore. The entrepreneur arrived throughout an on the web write-up about multirotors and commenced making a single from scratch.

“I was like ‘I do not know what this is but I want it’. I needed to make my digital camera fly. So as a result of blood and sweat, I created my to start with drone,” he advised Channel NewsAsia within his dwelling workplace, which was entire of UAVs of all sizes.

“Google and YouTube seriously aided me a ton.”

Azhar’s enthusiasm for drones has led him to lots of UAV enthusiasts and memorable flights. Among them is an unmanned expedition to the stratosphere – the layer of the earth’s environment that extends 15km to 50km previously mentioned its floor.

A photograph of the stratosphere captured by an unmanned aerial motor vehicle as section of the Menembus Langit mission. (Picture: Menembus Langit)

Very last yr, he led a mission known as Menembus Langit (Pierce the Sky), a privately funded undertaking involving UAV devotees, scientists and engineers who wished to thrust the restrict, upwards. 

The crew correctly flew a 2.6kg drone to the stratosphere and set the best record of altitude any Indonesian-produced UAV has ever produced.

“We flew to the edge of area. The sky was dark,” Azhar reported with a smile as he showed us a nonetheless photograph of the stratosphere captured by the aircraft’s digital camera.

“When you fly in an airplane, you fly at about 30,000 ft to forty,000 ft. We were aiming at one hundred,000 ft – a few times the peak – even better than Concorde.”

A Exciting Obstacle

Whilst Mata Agung is targeting a a lot lessen altitude, presented the volcano’s peak of just previously mentioned nine,900 ft, the problem is just as actual and remarkable.

For lots of civilian volcano watchers, traveling a drone to the crater is a fun problem that necessitates a crew hard work. Prior to a effective flight, however, there are a couple difficulties to solve.

A flight approach for Mata Agung’s aerial journey to Mount Agung’s crater. (Picture: Azhar T Pangesti)

In the course of the examination flights, the cruising pace stored dropping just after the plane strike a specific distance. This, according to Kadek, indicators insufficient battery electric power – the biggest fret for his crew.

So considerably, they have lost a single drone thanks to technical difficulties. Right after numerous trials and mistakes, the crew has agreed the plane will either need to climb in a spiral motion to a specific peak prior to heading to the summit or fly in an opposite way from the mountain and make a U-transform in the direction of its crater.

“We hope every little thing will run efficiently,” Kadek reported, on the lookout at dark clouds previously mentioned the horizon.

The solar is setting on Bali. Somewhere in the north, its biggest volcano lies awake and prepared to roar.

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