Drone manufacturer Flyability recently shared a video that highlights a research expedition to explore the deepest ice caves in the world in Greenland using Flyability’s Elios drone. Flyability’s drone technology helps scientists reach the bottom of the ice caves to study the movement of water.
Fashion company Moncler sponsored the expedition, which took place over two weeks in 2018 on the Greenland ice sheet, the second largest body of ice in the world after Antarctica. The research focused on an area about 80 kilometers east of Kangerlussuaq, where scientists wanted to study the movement of water deep underground to better understand the effects of climate change on the melting ice.
Entering a moulin that runs 300 meters deep is very dangerous, especially when the conditions farther down within the shaft are unknown. It must be said that due to climate change, the evolution of the integrity of these long caves is unpredictable. There is no question of attempting a deep descent in these conditions.
The record for the deepest descent in an ice cave was obtained here in 1996 by French speleologist Janot Lamberton, who managed to go down to about 200 meters. Despite many attempts, it has not been possible to break Lamberton’s record since then. The Elios drone broke this distance record without incident or risk.
To avoid collisions with the ice walls, the device is protected by a structure 40 cm in diameter, making it look like a large soccer ball and nearly impossible to crash. It can thus fly safely in closed environments. Elios carries a Full HD camera, a thermal camera, and LED torch lighting. It is also packed with features that eliminate the need for a GPS signal to stabilize itself and to be able to inspect from a specific distance.
The researchers were able to fly the drone to the bottom of the cave and capture images with Elios’s built-in camera and lighting. Thanks to Flyability’s drone technology, the researchers discovered a lake on the icy floor, something they would never have known if the drone had not been there.
“Thanks to its collision-tolerance and other features we’ve developed to help inspectors fly in challenging indoor environments, the Elios presented a unique solution for explorers to reach the bottom of the moulin,” says Flyability Product Manager Geoffroy le Pivain, who helped organize the mission.
The researchers, who think that the most serious effects of global warming can be observed in deep ice layers, aim to measure in the ice chimneys in the region by going as deep as possible. They also plan to use the Elios to eventually explore the depths of Mars and the icy moons of Jupiter.