Antarctic campaign: for the first time a robot will investigate the glaciers

Argentine researchers will use a robot prototype this summer for autonomous exploration of glaciers in Antarctica. In addition, they will have images provided by Saocom satellites and a new generation of sensors.

As specified Sebastian Marinsek, chief engineer of the Glaciology department of the Argentine Antarctic Institute, “in this Antarctic campaign the prototype of the robot will be deployed to test its mobility on the glacier and see how it operates autonomously, how your cameras work, and how temperature and humidity affect it.”

It is a robotic platform with four controlled traction wheels, equipped with cameras, sensors, an arm and solar panels..

This summer it will carry out its first operational tests as part of the measurements that each year They are carried out on the Bahía del Diablo glacier on Vega Island, 60 kilometers north of the Marambio Base..

Its technical name is “Robot for scientific use in the Antarctic sector”, and is a cooperation project between the IAA, the University of Defense (UnDef), the Faculty of the Navy (FadARA) and the Argentine Navy Officers School (ESOA).

Marinsek stated that “Together with the team that deploys every summer to Bahía del Diablo will be a technician who developed the robot to supervise the tests. The idea is to put it in autonomous mode and see what difficulties could arise if it were alone there”. In addition, he estimated that “having this technology would allow us to make some measurements autonomously throughout the year”.

The prototype has a base that allows it to be powered by solar energy. It could also be parked in case of a storm, in addition to facilitating the study in risky places without exposing the lives of the operators.

Marinsek remarked “cooperation with agencies that support the most advanced technology to produce more accurate and detailed data”.

This year it will join the Antarctic Campaign a topographer from the National Geographic Institute to make estimates of the dynamics of large ice masses with high-precision equipment.

“We also have an agreement with the National Commission for Space Activities (Conae), which through the images produced by the L-band radars of the Saocom satellites will allow us to measure deformations on the surface of the glaciers and link these data with those generated on the ground”, added the engineer.

In turn, with the collaboration of the Research and Development Program for Defense (Piddef) I know will update “the technology of the sensors with which the measurements are made and new equipment will be added in different glaciers to expand the survey capacity”.

Marinsek stated that “the monitoring of the Bahía del Diablo glacier it is the most detailed internationally available and also the longest running series; all these data are part of the annual publication made by an international monitoring network of which we are a part and in which we publish all the information we have, something that is not very common either”.

The Argentine monitoring of the glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula reaches, among others, the James Ross Island Gourdon Glacier, located about 30 kilometers from Marambio; the Larsen ice shelf; the glacier near Petrel Base on Dundee Island, 80 kilometers northeast of Marambio, and those close to the Matienzo Base, about 180 kilometers south of Marambio.

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