News Update

Antarctica mysteries to be mapped by robot plane

Mar 2024 | No Comment

A team of scientists and engineers have landed in Antarctica to test a drone that will help experts forecast the impacts of climate change.

The autonomous plane will map areas of the continent that have been out of bounds to researchers.

It has been put to the test in extreme weather around Wales’ highest peaks.

Its first experiment will survey the mountains under an ice sheet to predict how quickly the ice could melt and feed into global sea-level rise.

Scientists want to understand Antarctica better but they are limited by the existing technology.

Strong winds, below-freezing temperatures and sudden storms are common. These dangerous conditions, as well as dark winters and the need to transport pilots and large amounts of fuel, put limitations on use of traditional crewed planes.

The British Antarctic Survey developed the new drone with UK company Windracers to be easily repaired if something goes wrong. 

The drone was tested in Llanbedr, Eryri (also called Snowdonia) in north Wales – a stand-in for the difficult weather and terrain of Antarctica. 

During a practice run in strong winds with rain lashing the airfield, engineer Rebecca Toomey explained that the drone can fly to remote areas without concerns for pilots’ safety.

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