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Aerogeophysics at the British Antarctic Survey: science, sensors and future systems

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  • UserTom Jordan & Carl Robinson (British Antarctic Survey)
  • ClockThursday 19 May 2022, 17:00-18:00
  • HouseCEB, Lecture Room 1.

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Antarctica’s remote location and vast blanketing ice sheets mean it is the least understood continent on our planet, yet these same ice sheets mean it has a global impact on sea-level as the world warms. Satellite observations show us how the continent is changing today, but the processes governing ice flow and records of past change are typically found within and beneath the ice sheet. To observe the ice sheet structure and asses the influence of underlying factors such as melt water and geology, airborne observations are key. At the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) we use a suite of different airborne geophysical instruments to observe and infer the structure of the continent from the surface to depths of 10’s of kilometres.  These systems include active sensors such as LIDAR to map the ice surface and RADAR to image the ice sheet structure and underlying landscape. Passive systems including magnetic and gravity sensors allow an assessment of the underlying geology and interpretation of tectonic processes. Where rocks are exposed (less than 1%) visual imagery and hyperspectral cameras can map out the geology, informing wider subglacial interpretation. BAS currently deploys its sensors on a Twin Otter aircraft. This robust and well-proven platform can operate anywhere in Antarctica, only limited by the availability of fuel. Remotely piloted airborne platforms (RPAS) or drones can use two orders of magnitude less fuel, removing this key limitation, enabling collection of critical higher resolution data to inform our understanding of Antarctica and model its future change. However, a new generation of small, lightweight, low-power sensors capable of autonomous operation in some of the harshest conditions on our planet, coupled with innovative new processing strategies, are key to opening up this new frontier of exploration.

This talk is part of the Sensors CDT seminars series.

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