Svarmi is involved in an ongoing research project with Þorsteinn Sæmundsson at the University of Iceland and the Icelandic Meterological Office (Veðurstofa Íslands). A fracture has opened on Svínafellsheiði approximately 500 m above Svínafellsjökull Glacier, SE Iceland. In order to evaluate the potential danger for tourists and guides on the glacier and infrastructure in front of the glacier the fracture and the adjacent cliff were mapped with our drones, and 3D models were created from these data.


Evaluation of landslide potential on Svínafellsheiði, SE Iceland


Research project in collaboration with Háskóli Íslands and Veðurstofa Íslands


High-resolution RGB camera

Advantages of drones in difficult terrain

Using our dones to access this difficult terrain, we were able to obtain about 900 high resolution images in both 2016 and 2017 for comparison . A ground resolution of about 1.5 cm/pixel allows for the detection of even small details which would be impossible to observe from a satellite image and impossible to access by foot.

Highly valuable scientific findings

After high-resolution 3D models of the slope and fracture were produced in 2016 and 2017 by Svarmi, it was determined that the potential volume of rock could be more than 60 million cubic meters, and that the crack had widened by 2 – 4 cm between 2016 – 2017, presenting a significant landslide hazard.  The achieved dataset shows obvious signs of weakness in the vertical and sometimes overhanging basalt. Furthermore, unstable hyloclastite rock (móberg) were found to underly the basalt layers, possibly the cause of the instability in the slope. Following the release of this information,  Civil Protention Agency of Iceland (Almannavarnir) issued a warning about the unstable slope, and since then, glacier guiding on Svinafellsjökull (just below the unstable slope) has ceased due to potential risk to the thousands of visiting tourists on this popular glacier. Also at risk in this potential landslide is a nearby farm at the base of the slope.

Svarmi’s future involvement

We are currently continuing our work with Veðurstofa Íslands and the University of Iceland on evaluating the movement and quantifying the potential size, velocity and runout distance if the slope were to fail on Svínafellsheiði.