UAVs to replace expensive helicopters for ice reconnaissance

UAVs to replace expensive helicopters for ice reconnaissance

February 29, 2024

The automated landing system on the icebreaker deck has been successfully tested.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Nuclear icebreakers and scientific vessels have a takeoff and landing pad for a helicopter that performs ice reconnaissance. However, such equipment is very expensive to use: a crew, maintenance technicians, and fuel are needed. In this area, UAVs can easily replace it – information about the ice situation in real time will be sent to the navigator’s bridge. The aircraft will collect data on the hydrometeorological situation and the state of the ice cover near the ship.

“Previously, the biggest obstacle to using UAVs was the difficulty of landing a drone on board a moving icebreaker or ship in a difficult Arctic environment. However, now, after the Rosatom’s tests completion, we can say that the task that the developers had been facing for a long time has finally been solved”, said Oleg Devyatayev, chief specialist of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute’s ice and hydrometeorological information center.

Icebreakers are already being equipped with such complexes. Rosatom has successfully completed tests of an ice reconnaissance complex based on an unmanned aerial vehicle. Radar images of the sea channel obtained during the tests were transferred to the Unified Digital Services Platform of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and posted on a single geoinformation portal.

In the waters of the shipping canal in the Kara Sea’s Ob Bay, the nuclear icebreaker Yamal successfully carried out the third stage of testing a UAV designed to obtain operational information about the ice conditions necessary to ensure the safety of navigation along the NSR. The data received by the device makes it possible to form a digital system of the Northern Sea Route, TASS reports citing the press service of the state corporation.

In accordance with the developed test methodology, the UAV performed flights along the sea channel of the Ob Gulf. Despite the fact that the tests were carried out in the dark in difficult weather conditions with wind speeds of 15–17 meters per second and gusts of up to 19 meters per second, and an air temperature of minus 25 degrees, all systems of the complex operated as normal.

The UAV made a flight at an altitude of 600 meters in cloudy conditions, the duration was 115 minutes, the path length was 174 kilometers. For the first time, a fully automated landing system on the deck of an icebreaker without operator participation was successfully tested, which significantly simplifies the operation of the UAV. During the flight, radar images were formed, and video was recorded in the optical and infrared ranges. All information with geolocation reference to the area was transmitted to the operator at the workplace on the icebreaker in real time.

The operational aerial ice reconnaissance complex is one of the Northern Sea Route’s digital ecosystem components, which is being created by the Rosatom State Corporation as part of the Northern Sea Route Development federal project implementation. In addition to UAVs, it will include the Unified Platform for Digital Services of the NSR and a data fund, as well as on-board measuring systems.

The NSR digital ecosystem creation will improve the navigation safety, as well as the economic efficiency of maritime cargo transportation in the Arctic. The digital ecosystem should be created in 2024 and put into operation in mid-2025.

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Text: Denis Kozhevnikov, photo: Nikolay Shchipko

February 29, 2024

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