Due to their potential instabilities, deploying personnel onto icebergs to make direct in-situ measurement is hazardous. The preliminary results from an investigation into the usage of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for surveying and monitoring icebergs are presented. The project had four objectives: (i) acquisition of imagery for the generation of iceberg topside reconstructions using photogrammetry; (ii) development of a GPS tracking device and a deployment mechanism to place it onto an iceberg; (iii) development of a motion sensor to record the motion of an iceberg and a deployment mechanism to deliver it onto an iceberg; and (iv) iceberg draft measurements from a UAV-mounted ice penetrating radar.
The project has used both commercially available and custom-built UAVs. The sensor packages (cameras, tracking devices, accelerometers and ground penetrating radar) were commercial products that have been modified for this study and, when required, mountings and delivery mechanisms have been designed and manufactured to integrate the system together.
Fieldwork was performed during the 2017 iceberg season in a near-shore environment (Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada) aboard a survey vessel and, in 2018, from an operational supply vessel offshore Newfoundland and Labrador. The field campaigns were conducted in parallel with an iceberg profiling system that uses an integrated multibeam sonar and LiDAR system to generate composite (topside and subsurface) iceberg reconstructions. These reconstructions can be compared with the results obtained from the photogrammetry and the radar survey.
During the 2017 program, iceberg imagery for photogrammetry was acquired and GPS tracking devices were deployed onto icebergs and sea-ice. The longest iceberg track obtained was 21 days. For the 2018 campaign, further photogrammetric data was collected and ground penetrating radar surveys of icebergs were performed. The photogrammetry topside reconstructions and the draft estimates from the ground penetrating radar produced results comparable to measurements from the iceberg profiling system.
This project has explored the capability of UAVs to deliver sensor packages onto icebergs, and to take aerial measurements over and around them. They are an emerging technology that, although challenging to work with in the harsh North Atlantic environment, have proved useful.