Watch a brave drone get dramatically close to an erupting volcano

DJI has just shown off one of the most spectacular drone videos we've ever seen of an erupting volcano, so close it resulted in a melted a GoPro camera. The pilot, Eric Cheng, captured the footage at the Bardabunga volcanic system in Iceland using an off-the-shelf DJI Phantom 2 drone equipped with a GoPro Hero 3+ camera. After an eleven hour journey over nearly impassable terrain, his team arrived to within 2 km of the volcano, which was spewing lava as high as 150m (460 feet) in the air.

To keep contact with the drone at such a distance, Cheng used DJI's 2.4GHz Lightbridge WiFi system with a 1.7km range. Since the Phantom 2 was programmed to return home automatically if it lost contact, he wasn't quite able to get the extreme close-ups he wanted. So he decided to hike an extra kilometer closer, where he was able to pilot the drone nearly inside the rim -- despite losing the signal due to the intense heat. The memory card was fine, however, and he pulled out stunning shots of the hell-like, churning interior and soaring lava jets.

The drone was so close that one side of the GoPro actually melted from the heat, and the next morning the spot where he stood was covered with lava from a rim breach. The volcano continues to spew fire and ash and still poses a serious danger to the remote Icelandic region. You won't have to leave your chair, though -- check below to see the eruptions and a short documentary explaining how the footage was captured.

[Image credit: Eric Cheng]