Royal Navy trials drones to find ice leads

Image: RN.

Polar research vessel, HMS Protector, becomes first ship in the Royal Navy to have its own remotely-piloted aerial systems on board.

HMS Protector, the Royal Navy’s only polar research vessel, has been trialling the use of aerial drones to spot ice leads in the Antarctic. The ICE 05-class, 2000-built vessel was built for commercial offshore survey work in the Arctic and was originally called Polarbjørn.

Although the Protector has a helipad she lacks helicopter hangars and is therefore unable to carry her own manned aviation units for hunting leads in the ice. Instead, her crew have now been issued with specially designed drones capable of ultra-low temperature operation.

“When operating in the ice we will always look for the path of least resistance, as this reduces the long term strain on the engines and hull,” said survey specialist and hydrographer Lieutenant Adelaide Banyard. “It is very easy to ‘chase a lead’, an area with less-concentrated ice, but that might not actually take [us] in the direction we want.”

With live video feed from the overhead drones, the Protector will now be able to follow the best leads available and spare the ship the heavy work of ice breaking.

Courtesy: RN.
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