Small unmanned aerial vehicles for aeromagnetic surveys and their flights in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

Minoru Funaki, Shin Ichiro Higashino, Shinya Sakanaka, Naoyoshi Iwata, Norihiro Nakamura, Naohiko Hirasawa, Noriaki Obara, Mikio Kuwabara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


We developed small computer-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, Ant-Plane) using parts and technology designed for model airplanes. These UAVs have a maximum flight range of 300-500km. We planned aeromagnetic and aerial photographic surveys using the UAVs around Bransfield Basin, Antarctica, beginning from King George Island. However, we were unable to complete these flights due to unsuitable weather conditions and flight restrictions. Successful flights were subsequently conducted from Livingston Island to Deception Island in December 2011. This flight covered 302.4km in 3:07:08, providing aeromagnetic and aerial photographic data from an altitude of 780m over an area of 9×18km around the northern region of Deception Island. The resulting magnetic anomaly map of Deception Island displayed higher resolution than the marine anomaly maps published already. The flight to South Bay in Livingston Island successfully captured aerial photographs that could be used for assessment of glacial and sea-ice conditions. It is unclear whether the cost-effectiveness of the airborne survey by UAV is superior to that of manned flight. Nonetheless, Ant-Plane 6-3 proved to be highly cost-effective for the Deception Island flight, considering the long downtime of the airplane in the Antarctic storm zone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-356
Number of pages15
JournalPolar Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Dec 1


  • Aeromagnetic survey
  • Ant-Plane
  • Autonomous flight
  • Deception Island
  • UAV


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