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24-11-2020

Climate research with underwater- drones and robots!

Written by Karst Beens

Homa Kheyrollah Pour and Wilfrid Laurier, two pioneers in the field of climate research, conducted research in the Northwest Territories of Canada. This research focused on global warming using the DTG3 with its team, the Remote Sensing of Environmental Change Research Group (ReSEC Lab).

They were sent to Délı̨nę, within the International Biosphere Reserve in the Northwest Territories of Canada. They set out to collect information on the effects of climate change on the ice of the Arctic Ocean. Global warming is particularly relevant to northern Canada, as reports have suggested that northern Canada is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the world. What happens here also has consequences for Western-Europe! This is also shown by data from KNMI! (Dutch science researchers specialised on climate, meteorology and seismology)

zee-ijs minimum Arctic t/m 2019(Image from KNMI*, made by NASA) This is a graph about the total ice surface found on the sea.

Wilfrid Laurier has a long-term research partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories through their Centre for Cold Regions and Water Science. Using the DTG3, Kheyrollah Pour and her team set out to understand the phenology (recurring phenomena) and thickness of ice in the Arctic and to study the interplay between the variability of ice conditions and lake water properties and productivity.

 

Here you can see the preparation for the climate research.

 

PROFOUND RESEARCH

The DTG3, nicknamed Dory by the ReSEC team, was used in numerous ways to investigate the area. Kheyrollah Pour noted that investigating the ice layers gives researchers valuable insight into how the ice formed and how it grew over time on a large lake like the Great Bear Lake.

 

“When there is no or little snow on the ice, the ice grows from the bottom of the ice sheet. The underwater drone allowed us to actually look under the ice to easily see the topography and the ice water interface,” said Kheyrollah Pour. Using the 4k camera on the DTG3-> (nicknamed: Dory), the team was able to view the ice from below to gather valuable insights.

Kheyrollah Pour explained that as the duration of the seasonal ice cover of the lake across Canada decreases, the duration of the open water season will increase, which has numerous impacts on the lake’s environment and ecosystem. By monitoring winter ice cover conditions and the quality of the water under the ice cover, now the ReSEC team can learn more about these changes going forward.

Using the Dory the underwater drone, the ReSEC team also took important water and sediment samples. “Without the ROV, we could not collect water samples under the ice at various depths up to 45 metres,” shared Kheyrollah Pour. The temperature sensor on the ROV allowed the researchers to collect data on changing water temperatures at numerous depths and locations. Because land loses heat faster than water, Kheyrollah Pour said, obtaining these temperatures was crucial to her research.

Watching algal blooms also provided important information for the ReSEC team. “We used the Deep Trekker drone to sample from different depths and to take sediment samples from the bottom,” said Kheyrollah Pour. Taking samples from different depths and locations gave the team a complete picture of the environment.

INTERACTION WITH THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

Using the DTG3 also provided a great opportunity for learning in the local community. “It was so interesting for the community,” exclaimed Kheyrollah Pour. “They see the Great Bear Lake as a person.” The local community helps the ReSEC team.

Kheyrollah Pour explained that “we had two community members with us, they were interested and curious about the research! They loved seeing the bottom of the lake and we were able to show them the life of the fish and plankton under the ice”.

By using a drone that can be cleaned 100% hygienically, there are also no negative effects on the biodiversity and water quality of the Great Bear Lake. This is another advantage of using an underwater drone!

 

USE OF THE DTG3

Kheyrollah Pour noted that the durability and reliability of the DTG3 was crucial to their research. According to her, the research went surprisingly smoothly. Despite the Arctic conditions, the DTG3 battery lasted all day, allowing the team to make the most of their time up north. “We were impressed by how long it took in such cold conditions,” said Kheyrollah Pour.

The team used Wilfrid Laurier’s swimming pool to practice before their mission. The advance training allowed the team to be confident in their piloting abilities before operating the vehicle under the ice. It was also good for them to fully master the controls of the underwater drone before moving on to harsh conditions.

Deep Trekker and H2O Drones sincerely thank Kheyrollah Pour and her team for their time. You can learn more about their research in their Laurel spotlight and keep up to date with the ReSEC Lab on their website.


For more information about the climate, research of this or the operation of underwater drones (ROVs) you can always contact us!

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