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Ground Proving Through Overflying

Visual inspection using overflying by drones to reduce impact of foot traffic

During the expedition, the use of a small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) or 'drone' aimed to provide practical experience with the technology and assess its potential in the High Arctic. The focus was on leveraging low-cost, high-quality aerial imagery for research purposes, reducing environmental impact, and enhancing operational efficiency.

The DJI Mavic Pro drone, including equipment in a padded case, weighed a total of 3.5kg, with dimensions of 22cm x 32cm x 13cm. A laptop, used for storage and review of imagery, weighed 1.8kg, with dimensions of 22cm x 32cm x 2cm.

To comply with regulatory restrictions, knowledge of local drone flying rules was essential, with a reference link provided. In the field, the drone, mini iPad, and auxiliary equipment weighed 2.8kg, facilitating easy transport and operation.

Operational issues during flights were minimal, with occasional instability in imagery on the controller screen, resolved by restarting the drone. Battery life allowed approximately 15-20 minutes of flight time per battery, limiting total flying time but well-managed with four batteries.

The drone contributed to various research projects, capturing video imagery for plastic pollution areas, plant ecology study, geology, meteorite exploration, and general expedition activities.

Weather conditions, specifically dry weather with appropriate wind speeds, were crucial for safe drone flights. Despite occasional challenges, the expedition provided ample opportunities for successful drone operations.

Environmental concerns, such as dust and low temperatures, were addressed through precautions, including motor dust-caps, though they were not ultimately needed. Battery charging relied on a Honda generator, as alternative solutions like solar panels were deemed unsuitable.

Lessons learned highlighted the need for thorough preparations, operator skills development, and improved planning for maximum drone utilization. Regulatory limitations, requiring visual range proximity, were acknowledged as a hindrance to fully exploiting the drone's potential for extending research areas beyond visual range

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