FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Students from the University of Hawaii – Rose Hart, Grad Student and Roberto Rodriguez, PhD Student, along with Nathan Stephenson – Frontier Precision Applied Geospatial Engineer — mapping the Hawaiian lava flows. 

Brennan O’Neill – Hawaiian Branch Manager of Frontier Precision

“I had to help out. It was tearing at my soul.” When Kilauea started erupting on the Big Island of Hawaii on May 3, Brennan O’Neill knew he had to do something. As the Hawaiian branch manager of Frontier Precision, he was in a unique position to offer support. Frontier Precision has been at the forefront of geospatial measurement technology for 30 years and was ready to provide free access to technology and expertise to assist in mapping the lava flow.

“I’m a resident of Hawaii,” said Brennan. “For a geologist, it’s even more powerful than that. The lava flow is like a living mass that has a mind of its own, creeping, glowing — an upside-down conveyor belt surging forward and burning everything in its path.”

While the lava can’t be stopped, it can be mapped. Through Frontier Precision, Brennan offered high-tech mapping equipment, his own expertise, and the assistance of Nathan Stephenson, an applied geospatial engineer currently working in the company’s Denver office.

“We used a combination of Trimble R10s and Trimble R8s to gather accurate data points on the ground,” said Nathan. The mapping team flew UAS drones over the flow to gather visual imagery data, matched it to the ground reference points, stitched the photos together and draped it over county maps. The process was repeated as often as needed – daily, and sometimes even hourly – to show the speed and direction of the flow.

Nathan isn’t new to mapping lava flows. As a graduate student at the University of Hawaii – Hilo, he worked on collecting data on the Pahoa eruption in 2014, and he’s seen advances in technology in just a few years. “One thing we have now that we didn’t have in 2014 was a thermal radiometric camera that helps us map more accurately at night and enables us to capture large heat signatures.”

The collected data helps Hawaii Civil Defense and other agencies keep the public informed and safe, and in the long term it also contributes to the store of scientific knowledge about eruptions and lava flow behavior.

The lava flow has formed a channel that now extends out to the ocean. It poses no immediate threat to structures or people aside from gas emissions but could change at any time. Nathan has returned to his home in Denver, but if the situation changes, he would come back to Hawaii. “It was a great experience and I was glad to offer my support. If they need me again, I’ll be there.”

Frontier Precision would be glad to offer assistance as well if needed in the future, whether that be with equipment or with personnel. “Scientific measurement is what we do, and when we can help out on a project like this, it’s the right thing to do and we have the equipment and expertise to get the job done.”



Frontier Precision has a 30-year plus track record of helping you provide a measure of excellence. It all ladders back to our core philosophy of How You Measure Matters. It’s why each day, we seamlessly connect the physical and digital worlds through technology to improve how we all better interact with the earth in meaningful ways. Our tools and solutions make you more efficient, productive, and most importantly, profitable.


Frontier Precision knows that every measurement its customers take is important. It’s why Frontier Precision not only offers the latest, cutting-edge measurement tools, but also understand the continuing need for service and support — because How You Measure Matters encompasses the total customer experience.

Professional Services

From Geospatial Services to GIS Professional Services to Water Resources Data Acquisition Services, Frontier Precision delivers leading-edge measurement technology. We’ve been there, every centimeter of the way, as geospatial technology has evolved. No matter what your need for accurate measurement, we have the experience and expertise to create a customized solution for you.


Training & Events

We give you the proper training on the solutions we sell. Sign up for Professional Certified Training to get up and running quickly — all backed by the most experience in the industry. Whether onsite, online or in the classroom, we are helping make our customers efficient, productive, and profitable with today’ s and tomorrow’s technology.


Frontier Precision provides world-class support from centers across a wide section of the western United States. Need support for any geospacial products, software or services?

Contact Frontier Precision at 800-359-3703.

About Frontier Precision

Frontier Precision’s measure of excellence can be traced back to 1988. Four years later, in 1991, Frontier Precision partnered with Trimble — a United States-based GPS equipment manufacturer at the time, and the rest is history. Since then, Frontier Precision has grown with Trimble to be one their largest and best geospatial distributors in the world.

We’ve been at the frontier of technology for three decades, continually offering customers new tools and solutions, all with our end goal in mind to help make our customers efficient, productive, and profitable with today’s and tomorrow’s technology. Frontier Precision is an employee-owned company — each of our team members is committed to your success.

Contact Frontier Precision


From our original office in Bismarck, North Dakota, we’ve grown our footprint thousands of miles in every direction.Today, you’ll also find us in South Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Hawaii, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington — delivering the Frontier Precision difference to more people each day.