UC Receives Funding for 4D Drone Research in Antarctica

July 4, 2016 Trent Fulcher

University of Canterbury researchers have been funded $450,000 for new scientific research projects to help New Zealanders better understand their future climate as part of the government’s Deep South National Science Challenge.

Several new projects, worth $1.5 million in total, range from investigating Antarctic sea ice using drones to improving predictions and understanding of the drivers of New Zealand’s climate.

Two of the seven projects funded are led by the University of Canterbury and one features the use of 4D drones.

Versatile 4D drones for observations of Deep-South key Earth system processes

Principle Investigator Senior Lecturer Dr Wolfgang Rack, Gateway Antarctica at the University of Canterbury, has been funded $299,000 for his year-long project.

This project will develop and test the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones, to complement and validate satellite observations of the least understood processes regarding clouds and snow in the least accessible region of the world.

The challenging polar environment still restricts our ability to effectively measure distributions of aerosols and sea ice thickness. 

Improved observational systems designed to operate in the Southern Ocean are therefore essential for enhancing our knowledge of the processes underlying climate change.

This application of new smart technologies will provide an exciting new development in the data collection of cloud related processes in the Southern Ocean. This will enhance greater understanding of cloud formation to enable more realistic simulations of regional and global climate scenarios. 

Once developed, the systems will be used in further Deep South Challenge research for data collection and validation of satellite observations.

They will be easily deployable by field parties from sea ice or from ships, thereby increasing the observational capacity of the Deep South programmes. 

This project works toward the overarching Deep South mission to develop an international standard Earth Systems Model that adequately reflects the unique dynamics of the Southern Ocean and informs the decision making of New Zealanders in a changing climate.


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