Since the marginal ice zone of the Arctic Ocean is a highly dynamic environment, it is crucial to track the position of the ice edge in order to define AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) mission parameters. To facilitate the deployment of the tracking system on the ice, a remotely controlled flying drone (multicopter) specifically designed for polar operations was developed.


The multicopter’s mainframe consists of an aluminium frame with six arms arrayed radially outward from a centre point. The arms are made of square tubes (15 x 15 mm) and have a length of 350 mm each. At the centre point the entire electronics of the flying drone is mounted in a lightweight carbon structure. For insulating reasons, the multicopter is protected by a 3 cm thick Styrofoam hull. In addition, the insulation offers sufficient buoyancy to make the drone float in case of a crash or an emergency landing. Six propellers running at a maximum speed of 10.000 rpm provide enough thrust to carry about 2 kg of payload. The drone is remotely controlled by a radio transmitter.


The payload of the prototype multicopter includes a GPS receiver, a UHF transmitter to broadcast the GPS position to mission control, a PAR sensor to assess photosynthetically active radiation, and a data logger for the PAR data. The drone’s power supply consisted of three identical lithium polymer batteries providing enough energy to fly for about 15 minutes. Generally, the hexacopter is a useful platform to carry all kind of instruments.


Contact: S. Lehmenhecker





Lehmenhecker, S., Wulff, T. (2013): Flying Drone for AUV Under Ice Missions. Sea Technology, 55 (2): 61-64.