The seasonal works of the 63th Russian Antarctic Expedition are over. Each year, the Expedition has SPbU’s graduates; among them is Uliana Prokhorova, a climatologist, who studied the radiation characteristics of snow and ice cover by using the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the Antarctica.

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During the seasonal works at the Russian station “Progress” in the Antarctica, the climatologists used UAVs, which enabled them to have significantly lower airspeed and explore the objects from different heights. They studied the radiation properties of various types of underlying surfaces near the station.

“We are primarily interested in the fast ice in the Prydz Bay region, the surface and edge of the ice dome, and runway of the station, — said Uliana Prokhorova. — The measurements were done by an analog-to-digital converter, a pyranometer (an instrument for measuring the amount of radiation incident from the entire sky on a horizontal surface), and a photo camera that were installed on the drone aircraft. We also used a mobile actinometric complex to measure intensity of electro-magnetic radiation”.

The scientists measured albedo that is the proportion of the incident light or radiation that is reflected by a surface and compiled maps of how albedo is spread on the surface to measure the surface thermal balance.

“When we were using the drone, we found some drawbacks in its operation that are now being eliminated, — said SPBU’s Associate Professor and Director of the Laboratory of Interaction of Ocean and Atmosphere of the AARI Boris Ivanov. — Apart from the pyranometer and photo camera, a new model will feature an infrared thermometer and temperature and air humidity monitoring sensors. It will be tested at the AARI’s field base “Ladoga” and we will use it for the first research investigations during the AARI-SPbU summer expedition in Svalbard”.

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Yet UAVs are far from being widely used in the Russian research projects. The pioneering works were carried out in 2015 by the RV Lance north Svalbard. Our researchers tried to use UAVs to measure surface shortwave net radiation of the drifting ice by CNR-4 Net Radiometer. However all their attempts to measure albedo failed as the device has high response delay and high speed.