Page last updated at 13:55 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Volcano scientist wins accolade

Helicopter
The helicopter is equipped with tailored sensors and instruments

A Scots scientist who invented a new way to help predict when volcanoes will erupt has received a major award.

Dr Andrew McGonigle, from Edinburgh, uses a remote controlled helicopter which he flies over active volcanoes to gather his data.

He has been named a Laureate in the 2008 Rolex Awards for Enterprise, a prize which brings with it the funding to develop his idea further.

He is senior research fellow at the University of Sheffield.

Funds from the award will finance Aerovolc II, an unmanned, small-scale helicopter, designed specifically to measure the volcanic gases in Etna and Stromboli in Italy.

What we are trying to do is enable the same measurement of carbon dioxide emissions but enabling the scientists to remain completely remote at a safe distance from the volcano
Dr Andrew McGonigle
Volcanologist

The aircraft is cheaper than previous efforts to predict eruptions and eliminates the dangerous task of physically measuring volcanic gases.

Dr McGonigle told BBC Scotland: "What we are trying to do is develop a completely remote way of measuring carbon dioxide emissions from volcanoes.

"Carbon dioxide as a gas is very important with volcanology because it is released from rising batches of magma relatively early in the ascent process."

He said it would be expected that the emissions of carbon dioxide emission might increase in the weeks and months before an eruption.

"It is a very desirable measurement for us to make, but up until now the only way to make that measurement has involved someone climbing up to a volcano and using an instrument from the crater's edge," he added.

"What we are trying to do is enable the same measurement of carbon dioxide emissions, but enabling the scientists to remain completely remote at a safe distance from the volcano."

International publicity

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The high-tech model helicopter in action

Rolex will present $100,000 (67,000) each to five Laureates on Tuesday evening at a ceremony in Dubai.

Five associate Laureates will each receive $50,000 (33,500) at ceremonies in their home countries.

All 10 winners will also receive a Rolex chronometer and international publicity for their projects.

Patrick Heiniger, chief executive officer of Rolex, said: "The Rolex Awards for Enterprise enable the work of global pioneers who are breaking new ground in their fields and improving lives worldwide.

"We are proud to support these truly original thinkers and salute them for their ingenuity and commitment of purpose."

The 2008 Rolex laureates were chosen from nearly 1,500 applicants in 127 countries by an independent panel of scientists, educators, economists and other experts.

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