UAS-Based Radar Sounding of Ice

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 8:30 AM
Richard D Hale1, Shawn Keshmiri1, Carl Leuschen2, Mark Ewing1, Jie-Bang Yan1, Fernando Rodriguez-Morales1 and Sivaprasad Gogineni2, (1)Center For Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, Lawrence, KS, United States, (2)University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, United States
The University of Kansas Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets developed two Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) to support polar research. We developed a mid-range UAS, called the Meridian, for operating a radar depth sounder/imager at 195 MHz with an eight-element antenna array. The Meridian weighs 1,100 lbs, has a 26-foot wingspan, and a range of 950 nm at its full payload capacity of 120 lbs. Ice-penetrating radar performance drove the configuration design, though additional payloads and sensors were considered to ensure adaptation to multi-mission science payloads. We also developed a short range UAS called the G1X for operating a low-frequency radar sounder that operates at 14 and 35 MHz. The G1X weighs 85 lbs, has a 17-foot wingspan, and a range of about 60 nm per gallon of fuel. The dual-frequency HF/VHF radar depth sounder transmits at 100 W peak power at a pulse repetition frequency of 10 KHz and weighs approximately 4.5 lbs. We conducted flight tests of the G1X integrated with the radar at the Sub-glacial Lake Whillans ice stream and the WISSARD drill site. The tests included pilot-controlled and fully autonomous flights to collect data over closely-spaced lines to synthesize a 2-D aperture. We obtained clear bed echoes with a signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio of more than 50 dB at this location. These are the first-ever successful soundings of glacial ice with a UAS-based radar. Although ice attenuation losses in this location are low in comparison to more challenging targets, in-field performance improvements to the UAS and HF/VHF radar system enabled significant gains in the signal-to-noise ratio, such that the system can now be demonstrated on more challenging outlet glaciers. We are upgrading the G1X UAS and radar system for further tests and data collection in Greenland. We are reducing the weight and volume of the radar, which, when coupled with further reductions in airframe and avionics weight and a larger fuel bladder, will offer extended range. Finally, we are increasing the radar transmit peak power to about 250-500 W using high-efficiency power amplifiers and hardening the aircraft actuators for potential electromagnetic interference. The main focus of the Spring 2015 deployment is to collect fine-resolution data near the outlet and grounding lines of Kangiata Nunaata Sermia (KNS) glacier in Greenland.