Sea ice monitoring and imaging using FMCW radar on unmanned aerial vehicles

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Primary Supervisor:

Peter Sammonds

Earth Sciences, UCL

Peter Sammonds's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Lai Bun Lok

Electronic and Electrical Engineering, UCL

Lai Bun Lok's Profile Picture

Project Description:

Ground-based radio echo sounding of polar ice sheets and shelves using phase-sensitive radar has gained renewed interest over the last few decades. More recently, a unique radar instrument based on low-power frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) techniques has been developed at UCL, in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey, for measuring the vertical strain rates and time-varying basal melt rates in glacial ice more than 3 km thick over the course of a year or longer.

This project aims to develop a miniaturised version of the UCL-BAS radar to be integrated onto an unmanned aerial vehicle platform for applications in monitoring and imaging of sea ice. The resultant datasets shall complement observational data acquired using in-situ and remote sensing methods. Radar-equipped UAVs have the advantage of making measurements over the summer season when surface melting significantly limits the accuracy of sea ice thickness determination from satellite altimetry.

The student will undertake theoretical and experimental investigations of the radar system in the laboratory and participate in pre-deployment flight testing in the UK before field trials are conducted in Antarctica and/or Greenland.

Policy Impact of Research:

Sea ice is a sensitive indicator of climate change and the ability to comprehensively monitor changes to sea ice cover year-round will have wide-reaching implications for the polar regions and beyond. Measurement data will help to improve ice-sheet models and ultimately generate better estimates of future sea level rise.

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