NASA is using drones to measure changes in ice sheets • Earth.com
NASA satellites have played a crucial role in detecting how ice sheets in the Arctic and the Antarctic have lost mass in the past decades. However, they have significantly struggled to measure fine details regarding how variations in snow depth on the surface of the ice affected the thickness of these glaciers.
Since snow blows almost constantly all around an ice sheet and piles on its surface over several years, scientists need to make sure that the thickness changes detected by satellite imagery are not just caused by a single snowfall event (or the lack of it).
According to NASA scientists, a way to overcome these problems is to use highly proficient drones that could fly for several days over the ice sheets and measure the depth of snow accumulating on top of sea ice.
Currently, the researchers are testing the performance of Vanilla Unmanned, a fixed-wing drone which can carry an instrument that uses radar to measure snow depth. The drone is equipped with heating…