They fly over outdoor concerts and battlefields. They come in all shapes and sizes, from futuristic-looking quad-copters to radio-controlled airplanes that sport a classic World War II body style. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly filling airspaces around the world.
Antarctica is no exception. Researchers are using UAVs to carry high-tech radars capable of making detailed images in order to understand how the Antarctic ice sheets are changing in response to climate change. Other scientists have sent unmanned aircraft over the sea ice and polynyas to map connections between the ocean and atmosphere.
Such unmanned aircraft systems offer great potential to collect data in places too dangerous for human pilots or in a much more cost-effective manner. But there is some concern that their unregulated use could be a safety hazard or even cause environmental problems.
The National Science Foundation (NSF), which manages the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), recently issued a notice prohibiting the use of UAVs, without its explicit authorization, until a formal policy is in place.
“UAVs have a huge potential to improve our ability to do science in Antarctica, and we don’t want to stop that innovation from taking place,” explained Brian Stone, section head of Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics in the NSF’s Division of Polar Programs. “We need a framework we can use to improve our capability in a way that protects our personnel and the environment at the same time, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now.”
Source:: Antarctic Sun Featured Articles