All Eyes on Iceland

High-resolution network cameras capture Icelandic volcano eruptions

Eyjafjallajökull is one of the smaller glaciovolcanoes in Iceland, but when it erupted in March and April, its impacts were felt globally.

Quiet for nearly two centuries, the volcanco’s eruption on March 20 was measured at a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 1. Five hundred local residents were evacuated, but were allowed to return home within 24 hours.

The second eruption on April 14, an eruption 10 to 20 times more powerful, caused volcanic ash plumes to shoot between three and seven miles into the atmosphere. This time, the eruption was measured at VEI 4. Melted ice caused river levels to rise by 10 feet and flood concerns dictated the evacuation of 800 people. The eruptions also created rare and spectacular electrical storms.

Because the eruption occurred beneath glacial ice, melted ice quickly chilled the lava, creating a glass-rich plume, which caused substantial air traffic disruption for days, from the United States to as far as Russia. As volcanic ash can’t be detected by radar, once encountered by pilots, it can greatly reduce visibility and damage engines to the point of shutting them down. More than 100,000 flights were cancelled between April 15 and 21, stranding millions of travelers and costing the airline industry an estimated $1.7 billion.

A Brewing Collaboration
When signs of an impending eruption were observed, Mila, Iceland’s telecommunication network provider, positioned a Mobotix camera on top of Valahnukur, a nearby mountain, to capture the event.

“Securitas and Mila began their collaboration somewhat before the eruption in March, when we were looking at possibilities for mounting cameras in several places around the country,” said Hordur Agustsson, marketing specialist at Mila. “Eyjafjallajökull glacier was one of those places, especially since we knew there was a possibility of an eruption. We can therefore say that the collaboration began at just the right moment in time.”

Once news of the eruptions broke, Mila became inundated with inquiries from all over the world, asking for images of the eruption. In response, they teamed with Securitas to install four Mobotix M24 and D12 high-resolution network cameras at the cities of Pórólfsfelli, Hvolsvelli and Hvolsvöllur to capture live streaming video of the eruption. In order to support thousands of viewers simultaneously accessing the video steams, Mila also enlisted the support of Kukl, a broadcast services company.

“Mobotix cameras were chosen for this project because of the quality of our products,” said Steve Gorski, the general manager of the Americas for Mobotix. “Our products have a proven track record of operating in harsh environments. In fact, Mobotix was the first company to develop a weatherproof camera right out of the box.”

“In my opinion, the Mobotix cameras are best suited to these conditions since they are independent units and do not need a lot of equipment,” said Haflidi Jonsson, business director at Securitas. “They are strong, well built, do not require much electricity and can be used under quite difficult circumstances. They also provide much better resolution than similar cameras and provide a clear and good picture.”

The Right Mix of Technology
Key to Mobotix’s success is decentralized technology, which stores recordings and images on the edge. End users benefit from lower network bandwidth and can achieve cost-effective high-resolution images without adding networking and storage infrastructure.

The M24 and D12 exchangeable-lens cameras were outfitted with hemispheric lenses that provide 180-degree views.

“One hemispheric camera can replace the view of four traditional cameras,” Gorski said.

The M24 cameras also feature an internal digital video recorder with up to 32 GB of storage capacity and high-resolution recording up to 3.1 megapixels. The cameras are weatherproof from -22 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit—achieved without a heater or fan, and consuming only 3 watts of power—and feature digital PTZ and two-way audio. The DualDome D12 employs two lenses and two high-resolution image sensors. Without any moving parts, maintenance is minimal, making them ideal for the extreme Icelandic conditions.

Capturing the World’s Attention
Viewers from 190 countries have accessed the live video streams, surpassing 4 million hits and making the Mila webpage the most popular in Iceland.

Links to the camera video stream can be found at http://mila.is/english-new/home/.

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