Today’s COTS UAV quadcopters have not been ruggedized to withstand harsh polar environments but a future application for UAV quadcopters that has great potential in polar science is the identification and characterization of small scale sea (and land) ice surface features such as ridges, snow drifts, cracks, leads, and rubble fields. In this study, processed imagery collected by COTS UAV quadcopters during test surveys will be presented to evaluate the current potential for using COTS UAVs to identify and describe surface features over ice.
Preliminary results suggest that current COTS UAV platforms can provide imagery of sufficient resolution to identify and even measure larger features over ice (e.g. sea ice pressure ridges), but are still limited in their ability to identify and quantify finer-scale surface roughness features. The results, however, suggest future potential for COTS UAV deployment in polar research/operations as these platforms become more advanced in terms of control systems, power sources, sensor system integration, increased payload, and more ruggedized designs for employment in harsh environments.