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Adapting open-source drone autopilots for real-time iceberg observations.

Title: Adapting open-source drone autopilots for real-time iceberg observations.
Name(s): Carlson, Daniel F, author
Rysgaard, Søren, author
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Journal Article
Date Issued: 2018-09-06
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Drone autopilots are naturally suited for real-time iceberg tracking as they measure position and orientation (pitch, roll, and heading) and they transmit these data to a ground station. We powered an ArduPilot Mega (APM) 2.6 with a 5V 11 Ah lithium ion battery (a smartphone power bank), placed the APM and battery in a waterproof sportsman's box, and tossed the box and its contents by hand onto an 80 m-long iceberg from an 8 m boat. The data stream could be viewed on a laptop, which greatly enhanced safety while collecting conductivity/temperature/depth (CTD) profiles from the small boat in the iceberg's vicinity. The 10 s position data allowed us to compute the distance of each CTD profile to the iceberg, which is necessary to determine if a given CTD profile was collected within the iceberg's meltwater plume. The APM position data greatly reduced position uncertainty when compared to 5 min position data obtained from a Spot Trace unit. The APM functioned for over 10 h without depleting the battery. We describe the specific hardware used and the software settings necessary to use the APM as a real-time iceberg tracker. Furthermore, the methods described here apply to all Ardupilot-compatible autopilots. Given the low cost ($90) and ease of use, drone autopilots like the APM should be included as another tool for studying iceberg motion and for enhancing safety of marine operations. •Commercial off-the-shelf iceberg trackers are typically configured to record positions over relatively long intervals (months to years) and are not well-suited for short-term (hours to few days), high-frequency monitoring•Drone autopilots are cheap and provide high-frequency (>1 Hz) and real-time information about iceberg drift and orientation•Drone autopilots and ground control software can be easily adapted to studies of iceberg-ocean interactions and operational iceberg management.
Identifier: FSU_pmch_30225206 (IID), 10.1016/j.mex.2018.09.003 (DOI), PMC6139390 (PMCID), 30225206 (RID), 30225206 (EID), S2215-0161(18)30145-6 (PII)
Keywords: Drone autopilot, Iceberg drift and orientation, Iceberg tracking, Iceberg-ocean interaction, Low-cost, Operational iceberg management, Real-time iceberg drift and orientation observations
Publication Note: This NIH-funded author manuscript originally appeared in PubMed Central at
Persistent Link to This Record:
Host Institution: FSU
Is Part Of: MethodsX.
Issue: vol. 5

Choose the citation style.
Carlson, D. F., & Rysgaard, S. (2018). Adapting open-source drone autopilots for real-time iceberg observations. Methodsx. Retrieved from