senseFly drones help monitor Lake Winnipeg ice hazards
senseFly fixed-wing drones have been used to track and monitor the formation of lake ice hazards on Lake Winnipeg by NextGen Environment Research Inc., a Canadian company based in Winnipeg. The project, conducted as part of the Canadian Space Agencies Earth Observation Applications Development Program (EODAP), aimed to identify and monitor the levels of lake ice and detect cracks and pressure ridges to raise awareness among local communities and first responders about the risks of lake ice travel.
With studies projecting a reduction in lake ice mass over the coming years, ice safety is becoming a critical consideration for many populations who use the lakes to travel for commercial and leisure activities. The onset of melting ice – which begins in spring – is a critical time for monitoring ice, as it can result in pressure ridges, leads and cracks appearing and expose open water. Pressure ridges can extend 3m above the surface and expand to more than 100km on larger lakes, and in winter can create significant obstacles for lake ice travel and increase the risk of collision. In cold periods, thin ice can also form in cracks, which may become covered in snow overnight and produce an unseen hazard the following day.
senseFly’s eBee Plus drone was used to map the South basin of Lake Winnipeg, thanks to its ability to withstand extreme temperatures while accurately mapping larger areas per flight than any other UAV with a similar weight. Having reliable equipment that can operate in rapidly changing temperatures was crucial to allow the team to gather precise and reliable on-the-ground data in conditions that ranged from -20°C to +20°C. In addition, utilizing senseFly’s drone technology eliminated the need for traditional ground mapping techniques, which could be dangerous on a surface where ridges continuously open and close.