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COWI locates invisible ice in the Arctic

Photo: COWI
Small, remote-controlled UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) have mapped invisible ice in Greenland, increasing traffic safety in ice-filled waters.

​They break loose from glaciers. They hide among waves. And they easily crack open major tankers.

They are called ice floes and represent considerable danger to maritime traffic in ice-filled waters. As they do not exceed 15 metres in length and five metres in height, ice floes are invisible on satellite images and rarely show up on ship radars, unlike major icebergs.

COWI is looking into offering a solution that increases maritime traffic safety. Recently, COWI sent up a UAV over Southern Greenland to examine the potential for using these small, unmanned aircrafts to monitor ice conditions.

"The only limit to what we can use a UAV for is your imagination," says Jesper Falk, Head of Section in Surveying and Land Administration.

Improves traffic safety in difficult waters

The UAV mapped an area at the mouth of the Qooroq Fjord south of Narsarsuaq. To meet the Danish Transport Authority’s regulations, the UAV maintained a height of almost 100 metres, keeping a safe distance to the nearby airport.

“I simply program the UAV to fly a certain route at a certain altitude,” says UAV Specialist in COWI Stephan Mølvig.

During the 24-minute test flight, the UAV covered around 15 kilometres and the integrated digital camera captured 190 images.

“I make sure that we have enough footage, so I can piece the images together, creating a mosaic of the area,” says Mølvig.

In the future, such mosaic images can help make it safer to navigate the most difficult waters of the world, which often present high towering waves and poor visibility.

By Steffen de Vries, sevr@cowi.com

Published 19.06.2013

LAST UPDATED: 16.09.2016