Drone on Ice Breaker

Fednav pioneers the use of drones in polar shipping.

In an industry breakthrough, Fednav this month became the first shipping company to employ drones, or Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV), for ice reconnaissance on a commercial voyage. The Umiak I used these drones to scout ahead of the vessel in the ice-covered waters of the Labrador Coast using a variety of video-equipped drones. The goal was to provide the captain and officers with detailed real-time visual information on the local ice conditions. 

Enfotec, a Fednav subsidiary and industry leader, has for 20 years specialized in providing advanced ice imagery and analysis to vessels operating in difficult ice conditions.

Despite advances in recent years in the quality of ice information available from satellite and radar images and conventional ice charts, there is a need to improve the scale of the information available to mariners. The UAVs will bridge this gap by delivering critical high-quality, short-range visual observations allowing navigators to see beyond the normal horizon for navigation in ice. Identifying subtle features not visible in conventional imagery, pressure ridges and small open-water leads for example, will allow mariners to make better informed strategic navigation decisions.

The backdrop for the application of this emerging technology was the Labrador Coast. The coast experiences winter conditions similar to the Canadian Arctic—thick first-year ice that is heavily deformed under pressure as well as remnants of multi-year and glacial ice embedded in the ice cover—which pose great challenges for navigation. The use of UAVs is proving to be highly useful to identify many such ice features that should be avoided ahead of the vessel, adding another safety measure for modern navigation in ice.

News Source: Dizifilms.ca