Drone’s Role in the Development of Arctic Navigation


The drones will become part of a Unified Digital Ecosystem aimed at simplifying and speeding up navigation along the Northern Sea Route (NSR)

Photo: Vestnik Atomproma

The Unified Digital Ecosystem aims to ensure the safety of shipping and the development of cargo traffic along the NSR. The system will consist of four components: satellite constellation, onboard systems, drones and a Unified Digital Services Platform (UDSP) and data bank where all information will be accumulated.

What is the role of drones in the system? To answer this question, let's look at each component of the system separately.

Russia’s Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, also known as Roscosmos, is responsible for the satellites. However, at the moment, satellite data alone is not enough. The satellite provides an overall picture about once every six hours. During this time, the ice field can shift by more than 5 kilometers.

As for the onboard systems, the main component of the installation is lidar, a space-scanning laser. The onboard systems measure ice cohesion, ice thickness, as well as the width of the shipping channel. Yet, an ice navigation radar used on board an icebreaker can observe ice conditions no further than 10 kilometers, while an icebreaker has to lead a caravan of three or four ships at a speed of at least 12 knots (about 22 km/hour)…

It is the drones that will be responsible for data collection at a greater distance from the icebreaker. Their task is to move away from the starting point (icebreaker) at a distance of up to 200 km, reaching an altitude of up to 2 km, and transmit radar images to the control station, where the data will be processed.

Until recently, there were no drones suitable for operating in the harsh Arctic conditions on the Russian market.

However, on February 1, Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom announced that it had successfully tested an ice reconnaissance complex based on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). This is the third stage of testing of the drone designed to obtain operational information on ice conditions necessary to ensure the safety of navigation along the NSR.

The drone performed flights in the Gulf of Ob. The tests were conducted in the dark in difficult weather conditions: the average wind speed was 15-17 m/s (with gusts up to 19 m/s) and the air temperature was - 25 °C.

The drone made a flight at an altitude of 600 meters in cloudy conditions, lasting 115 minutes with a total path length of 174 km. For the first time, the system of fully automated landing on the icebreaker deck without operator participation was successfully tested as part of the trials. Also, during the flight radar images were formed, and video was recorded in the optical and infrared ranges.

All information with geolocation was transmitted in real-time to the operator's workplace on the icebreaker, Rosatom's Director of NSR Office said.

Thus, drones will play an important role in the NSR Unified Digital Ecosystem, improving the safety of shipping as well as the economic efficiency of maritime cargo transportation in the Arctic.

Sources: Vestnik Atomproma

Atom Media

The editorial board of The Arctic Century



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