Recommendations for Safe and Expeditious use of Unmanned Aircraft to Take Critical Environmental Measurements in the Arctic: Results of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program Workshop of Scientists and Aviation Authorities from the Arctic Countries. Oslo, October, 2008.
Unmanned aircraft have been in use for decades, making tremendous advancements over the past fifteen years. While primarily developed for other purposes, this technology can offer tremendous opportunities for gathering environmental data in the Arctic. Much of the area within the Arctic is not monitored because of the inability for current monitoring systems to accurately make measurements. A particular challenge is measuring within the lowest two kilometers in the atmosphere and monitoring sea ice and marine mammals. Satellites do not give accurate measurements in this region, and current buoy measurements give incomplete information. With the strong and ill-understood changes taking place in the Arctic, it is of great importance that scientists be empowered to use unmanned aircraft in the Arctic for important environmental measurements. Currently, unmanned aircraft have been developed in a variety of shapes, sizes and capabilities. Sizes can range from less than one kilogram, to vehicles similar in size to a Boeing 737. Unmanned aircraft that have been used in the Arctic by scientists are generally less than 25 kilos, and often the aircraft have been much lighter. Despite their small size, unmanned aircraft have offered significantly improved data collection, often flying over 100 kilometers taking measurements in regions too difficult or risky for manned aircraft. UAS have been used to fly at low altitudes over Greenlandic glaciers taking detailed, systematic measurements of melt ponds, over sea ice to record detailed characteristics, and over seal and marine mammal populations to unobtrusively take systematic counts of existing mammals. These initial successful efforts of using unmanned aircraft to take environmental measurements have occurred in each of the eight Arctic countries.