Acquisition of broad, detailed and real-time information about ice conditions in the vicinity of arctic offshore drilling sites is one substantial challenge that faces effective ice management operations supporting floating drilling operations. Reliable and objective characterization of ice conditions up drift of the ice management fleet is needed to appraise an ice management system's anticipated efficacy with sufficient lead time to suspend or adapt operations if conditions become challenging or trend towards becoming unmanageable. Remote sensing technologies have the potential for reducing labor intensity and personnel exposure while observing and characterizing the changing arctic environment.
In this paper, the need for acquiring detailed ice information in real time to evaluate ice-induced hazards on offshore facilities in the arctic is presented with specific focus on airborne methods of measuring sea ice thickness, which is one of the most important parameters in assessing ice-induced hazards. The paper then discusses in detail how some manned and unmanned aviation concepts could be viable options for delivering persistent operational reconnaissance. In addition, infrastructural, technological and regulatory challenges associated with using airborne reconnaissance for continuous ice characterization in offshore regions of the arctic are presented and discussed.