In the Svalbard archipelago, Norway, drones are being used by geoscience researchers. Using drones to collect glacier ‘calving’ data is ideal because of the unsafe terrain involved. Not only are drones more cost-effective than the historical solution, helicopters, but they are more versatile because of their smaller size. Drones can capture detailed data from perspectives that were unavailable before.
Using a drone-mounted laser-range finder, SAMS engineer Shane Rodwell photographed and measured the depth of every crevasse. The data was then processed by Dr Nick Hulton of The University of Edinburgh and Professor Doug Benn of St Andrew’s University. They processed the data, a combination of 10,000 images collected over 10 missions, into a 3D model of the glacier. Pretty amazing.
The quadcopter was built by Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) engineer Shane Rodwell, based in Oban, and used a mounted laser-range finder and a camera to measure and photograph glaciers in the polar region.
It is collecting unique data for glacier experts Dr Nick Hulton of The University of Edinburgh and Professor Doug Benn of St Andrew’s University.
The detailed images will help provide a 3D image of glaciers for their investigation into glacier ‘calving’ – the term given to large sections of glaciers breaking off and falling into the sea – which is increasing with global warming.
Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Situated north of mainland Europe, it is about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. The islands of the group range from 74° to 81° north latitude, and from 10° to 35° east longitude. The largest island is Spitsbergen, followed by Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya.
Administratively, the archipelago is not part of any Norwegian county, but rather forms an unincorporated area administered by governor appointed by the Norwegian government. Since 2002, Svalbard’s main settlement, Longyearbyen, has had an elected local government, somewhat similar tomainland municipalities. Other settlements include the Russian mining community of Barentsburg, the research station of Ny-Ålesund, and the mining outpost of Sveagruva. Svalbard is the northernmost settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population. Other settlements are farther north, but are populated only by rotating groups of researchers; e.g. Alert, Nunavut—the northernmost year-round community.