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Robots make mapping safer in Antarctica

US: Researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) have successfully deployed a self-guided robot that uses ground-penetrating radar to map deadly crevasses hidden in ice-covered terrains.

Deployment of the robot–dubbed Yeti–could make Arctic and Antarctic explorations safer by revealing unseen fissures buried beneath ice and snow that could potentially claim human lives and expensive equipment.

Researchers say Yeti opens the door to making polar travel safer for crews that supply remote scientific research stations. Attempts have been made by researchers in the polar regions to use robots for tasks such as searching for meteorites in Antarctica. However, researchers who have worked with Yeti say it is probably the first robot to successfully deploy in the field that is able to identify hazards lurking under the thin cover of snow.

These findings are based on deployments of Yeti in Greenland’s Inland Traverse, an over-ice supply train from Thule in the north of Greenland to NSF’s Summit Station on the ice cap, and in NSF’s South Pole Traverse, a 1,031-mile, over-ice trek from McMurdo Station in Antarctica to the South Pole.

A team of researchers from the U.S. Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) and the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, along with a student at Stanford University’s neuroscience program, recently published their findings in the Journal of Field Robotics.

“Polar exploration is not unlike space missions; we put people into the field where it is expensive and it is dangerous to do science,” said CRREL’s James Lever.

Yeti was developed with funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Source: Science Blog