US: Considering the dangers North America’s Great Lakes cause to human lives in winters when they freeze, USCGC Mackinaw was put in use to break the gigantic, treacherous ice packs. Useful for ramming, plowing, and crunching the ice packs, the Mackinaw uses satellites to take overhead pictures of the ice pack, which they can use to map out weak spots in the ice.
But since the process of taking pictures from satellites is both slow and time consuming, and sometimes delays the process of charting the safest and quickest path through the ice, the ship’s crew has suggested of using drones to get a live-streamed aerial view of the waters ahead, especially with the increasing air-time of high-tech UAVs.
“As this video comes into the ship we get an idea of the features, the ice features, and whether there are leads, which are areas of open water, or ridges or something that is a more difficult ice type to navigate through,” George Leshkevich, a physical scientist with the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, told WCMU Radio.
The Mackinaw wouldn’t be the first ship to use unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance. In February, the Coast Guard’s Polar Star icebreaker used a Puma AE UAV to scout the ice around it on a resupply mission to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station in Antarctica. NASA also regularly uses the incredibly sophisticated Global Hawk drone to monitor weather patterns, so the Mackinaw’s crew would be in good company with a force of flying ice-monitors to help them out.