Science

Drones for hunting meteorites

This article is taken from the monthly journal Sciences et Avenir – La Recherche No. 903 of May 2022.

For the first time, a meteorite that had just fallen to Earth was discovered thanks to a drone. The event is dated April 2021.

Research area 5.1 km2

The Australian Desert Fireball Network surveillance system this month of 2021 detects a glowing trail in the sky over the Nullarbor Plain, just north of the Great Australian Bight, within three short seconds. The images make it possible to delineate a search area of ​​5.1 km2. The area is crossed by the first drone equipped with a camera linked to machine learning algorithms trained to recognize meteorites. Dozens of candidates are then screened using a second drone.

Stone found just four days after the fall

The hunt is finally on at four sites visited by geologists from Curtin University who, four days after the fall, will find an extraterrestrial rock five centimeters in diameter, still with melting crust! If this meteorite from the chondrite family is not rare, this method could be very useful in discovering valuable specimens.

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