Test flight of a drone

Martin Jansson and Anton Sandström from the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat. Photo: Åsa Lindgren

Arctic Ocean, 28 May 2023

After a few intense days of work on the ice floe, we packed up all the instruments and began our journey further north. However, it turned out that the ice did not want to cooperate, and our progress northward could have been faster. When visibility became limited due to harsh weather, we could not rely on the helicopter to search for good routes in the ice cover, so we decided to stay put. While we were "stationary," we drifted southward quickly, and when the storm released its grip on us, we chose to take a more easterly route into the ice.

The helicopter is of significant help when we search for good routes through the ice. By ascending to higher altitudes, we can get a good overview and see where there are cracks between the mighty ice floes.

The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat has been involved in a project funded by Vinnova, with Lund's School of Aviation and the Swedish Maritime Administration, to develop the use of drones in various research projects. As part of this project, the secretariat will test-fly a so-called "Fixed Wing VTOL" drone. Our IT technician, Anton, has undergone pilot training and had a dialogue with the manufacturer to develop a model that suits the specific needs of polar research. The drone is built for cold climates and adapted to be less sensitive to geomagnetic interference. It can be flown from ships during travel and has semi-autonomous take-off and landing capabilities. Its cruising speed is just over 21 m/s, and the drone has approximately three hours of flight time at minus twelve degrees Celsius. The radio link limits the operational range to about thirty kilometres.

We often see polar bears. The snow buntings that have been with us on board are still here. The other day, a flock of waxwings appeared, and on a few occasions, we have seen lonely eider drakes out on the ice.

Text: Åsa Lindgren, Expedition Coordinator

Publishing date: 29 May 2023