Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Ice Seal Analysis - results from unmanned aircraft flights

Videos of the mission:

See the unmanned aircraft being launched from on-board the ship: Unmanned Aircraft Launch.

Recovery of the unmanned aircraft back onto the ship takes place with the vehicle using differential GPS (Global Positioning Sensor) and latching onto a vertical wire: Unmanned Aircraft Recovery. This method of recovery proves to be less jarring for the for the vehicle and its instrumentation than many other landing methods.

What does the unmanned vehicle see as it's coming in for a landing? Click here to see the recovery from the vehicle's perspective.: Unmanned Aircraft Perspective of Recovery.

Images from the mission:

Unmanned aircraft ready for launch
Unmanned aircraft immediately after launch
Unmanned aircraft coming in for recovery.
Image of two seals
Image of another seal

The vehicle used was a Scan Eagle operated by U. Alaska, Fairbanks. Tha analysis of the images is taking place with a joint venture of Boulder Labs, Inc., NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory and U. Colorado. The analysis effort is funded by NOAA's Arctic Office and is led by Dr. Weatherhead.

The changing ice conditions in the Arctic likely are affecting the ecoysystems that are depending on that ice for survival. Understanding the effects of changes in both the amount of Arctic sea ice and the type of Arctic sea ice requires surveys from vast areas across the Arctic.

In the spring on 2009, unmanned aircraft flights took place off of the NOAA vessel MacArthur II, collecting over 27,000 images of ice and, occasionally, ice seals. The following three video clips show what the flights look like as the vehicle is launched, recovered, and what the perspective of the vehicle is on recovery.

Final Report from the mission