A Look at Past Polar Technology Conferences

Satish Chetty, Beyond66 Solutions

National Science Foundation Antarctic Program Perspectives

Mike Jackson, National Science Foundation
Wilson Sauthoff, National Science Foundation

National Science Foundation Arctic Program Perspectives

Kate Ruck, QED Enterprises, Inc.

Next Steps for the Polar Technology Community

Kate Ruck, QED Enterprises, Inc.

Re-envisioning the Polar Technology Conference

Kate Ruck, QED Enterprises, Inc.

Satellite Communications Special Session

Patrick Smith, National Science Foundation
Daniel Wagster, Leidos
Charlie Lever, Iridium
Jeff Osborne, Kepler
Robert Lorenzana, AST Americas

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Nancy French, Michigan Technological University
Satish Chetty, Beyond66 Solutions
Mark Seefeldt, University of Colorado - Boulder
Kate Ruck, QED Enterprises, Inc.

Welcome and Summary of Day 1

Welcome and Summary of Day 1 and 2

Science Drivers

Satellite Remote Sensing and Data Access in Relation to Studying Arctic Marine Mammal Sea Ice Habitat

Olivia Lee, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Seasonally ice covered seas are a unique environment where the location and quality of ice-habitat changes each year. The ability to delineate and predict usable ice habitat is important for long-term species management, particularly for protected species such as marine mammals. Using remote sensing data to monitor Arctic sea ice habitat has its drawbacks, but it remains the most valuable tool to predict regional trends in marine mammal habitat loss across the Arctic. This study presents an approach that compares remote sensing data of sea ice including passive microwave derived ice concentration and Synthetic Aperture Radar data, with local scale observations of ice and marine mammals from aerial surveys, and indigenous Alaskan coastal communities. This comparison is used to highlight the technological needs from satellite remote sensing, and the needs for overcoming barriers to data access that could support fine-scale studies of marine mammal sea ice habitat. Continued development of remote sensing tools to support observations of Arctic ecosystem change will remain a priority for researchers working with indigenous communities who are keen to understand local impacts to future marine mammal subsistence harvests, while also taking a non-invasive approach to studying marine mammal distributions.

Science Drivers Q&A and Panel Discussion

Understanding the Space Weather and Thermospheric Wind in the Polar Region


Polar regions are the first to be impacted by the geomagnetic storms originated from the sun. Due to Earth magnetic field line reconnection with the interplanetary magnetic field, ions in the ionosphere accelerated to high speed (over 1000 m/s) and dragged neutrals in the thermosphere causing disturbances in the ionosphere. These disturbances are very disruptive to GNSS navigational and radio communication systems. Understanding how the thermosphere responses to the geomagnetic storms are of great importance for the space weather in the polar region, which is becoming more relevant with ever increasing aviation and shipping activities. However, the current coverage of thermospheric wind observation is far from adequate for space weather application and research. In the Antarctica, we would like to deploy instrument beyond the year-around stations (South Pole, McMurdo, and Palmer). In the Arctic, we would like to have more access to more NSF funded facilities. The data rate and power requirement for the thermospheric wind monitoring instrument are moderate. I will give an overview of current NCAR thermospheric wind observation projects in Antarctica and Arctic and our desire to expand our observation in both polar regions.

What Are the Causes and Consequences of Abrupt Ecosystem Shifts in Polar Regions and How Can We Better Detect and Assess Hot Spots of Change?

Merritt Turetsky, University of Colorado - Boulder

Abstract not available.

Power Systems

Microturbine Power Generation Demonstraton at the Summit, Greenland Station

Armstrong abstract image

Richard Armstrong, QED/NSF

Introduction: The NSF, Arctic Research Support & Logistics Program, was awarded a grant from the US DOE to promote greater energy efficiency through the implementation of a combined heat and power (CHP) technology. A 65 kW Capstone Microturbine CHP unit was purchased and an "energy module" was designed and built to house the equipment. The CHP was shipped to Summit, Greenland to provide power and heat to the Summit Science Station, and commissioned in June, 2016.

Discussion: Some specific problems with operation of the microturbine, as well as solutions are discussed. Example challenges include altitude deration and limits, fuel deration, ambient temperature impacts, blowing snow impacts, maintenance problems, and control scheme problems. Positive attributes for the microturbine CHP system as compared to traditional diesel reciprocating engine generator sets include its compact size, low weight, quiet operation, low emissions, low maintenance, and high waste heat recovery.

Conclusions: The NSF will not continue to operate the CHP unit at Summit due to the need to operate two gensets to meet the Station load much of the time. The energy required to keep the batteries charged and warm, and the uncertainty of having qualified maintenance technicians, also contributed to the decision.

Power Systems Q&A and Panel Discussion

The Human Face of Polar Power

Foster Wilder abstract image

Piper Foster Wilder, 60Hertz Microgrids

The emerging field of user-centered design is being engaged by leading brands, from well-known examples like Apple, but also is the secret to success behind known brands like Canva, Lyft, and The Dollar Shave Club. This session will tell stories from these leading brands, and relate first-time stories from 60Hertz Microgrids from their work in the Arctic. Here’s how the principles of making our work meaningful apply to the scientific, academic, engineering and research sectors. Each attendee will leave with stories and at least 5 tools to think like a product designer — and why it's critical to bring these principles to our work.

UNAVCO Continuous GNSS Station Updates

Thomas Nylen, UNAVCO

The Polar Team at UNAVCO continues to support large GNSS networks in Greenland and Antarctica. These networks include GNET (41 stations), ANET (35 stations), UKANET (23 stations), Mt Erebus (7 stations) and a McMurdo regional network (14 stations). The radio telemetry network in the McMurdo region also provides connections to dataloggers and cameras. About 60 of the continuous GNSS stations are now running the new low power AlertGeo Resolute GNSS receiver. Its power consumption is less than a half of the NetRS, 1.4W vs. 3.2W. Combined with more efficient RUDICS Iridium communications, the overall power requirements are between 1.8 and 2.5W, depending on the file sizes. The new receiver will help prolong the battery life at existing stations and reduce the number of overall battery requirements for new stations, resulting in significant cost savings.


Documenting High Latitude System Dynamics: New Technologies for Persistent Monitoring of Critical Parameters at Appropriate Time-Space Scales

Philip McGillivary, US Coast Guard

International programs are planning standardized ship transects of the Arctic and Southern Oceans to collect critical data on temperature, salinity, heat flux, biological productivity and biodiversity to document rapid changes in high latitude systems. However ship-based studies only document portions of the time-space scale of natural variability. At the short temporal and small spatial scales of high latitude Rossby eddies/fronts, data collection remains problematic. Documenting the short duration but large spatial scales of high latitude storms that affect sea ice formation, transport, ridging or breakup/melting events is likewise challenging. Persistent surveillance of high latitude ocean and atmosphere dynamics at temporal/spatial scales essential for understanding factors forcing polar dynamics will require networks of unmanned systems with new sensor and communication capabilities. We discuss trends in glider and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) use, and how these can be networked with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and satellites to provide communication among platforms, including those under ice. New optical communications methods enable networking command and control software to adaptively deploy traditional sensors and new instruments including quantum magnetometers, gravimeters and optical systems. Employing recent power system improvements, unmanned systems can collect new kinds of data and improve spatial/temporal sampling of fundamental high latitude data.

Instrumentation and Secondary Applications of Observations from the Transportable Array in Alaska and Canada

Jeremy Miner, IRIS
Doug Bloomquist, IRIS
Ryan Bierma, IRIS
Bob Busby, IRIS

The IRIS Transportable Array in Alaska and Northwestern Canada deployed BGAN satellite (115 locations) and Iridium devices (125 locations) at geographically diverse locations in the Arctic and Subarctic region. The communications solutions developed allowed real-time and near real-time data transmission and remote command and control over station power and suite of sensors. This talk will focus on the communications systems used and key lessons learned and outcomes from widespread use of the technology.

Instrumentation Q&A and Panel Discussion

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Measuring Water Vapor Isotopes Above the Greenland Ice Sheet: Implications for Understanding Water Vapor Exchange

Vaughnn abstract image

Bruce Vaughn, INSTAAR - Univ. of Colorado
Kevin Rozmiarek , INSTAAR - Univ. of Colorado
Tyler Jones, INSTAAR - Univ. of Colorado
Valerie Morris, INSTAAR - Univ. of Colorado
Abigail Thayer, INSTAAR - Univ. of Colorado

We have tested the feasibility of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) for sampling atmospheric water vapor over the Greenland Ice sheet at (75.6N, 36.0W). Water vapor exchange between the atmosphere and the Greenland ice sheet has wide ranging effects on surface processes, including mass balance of the ice sheet and the transfer of climate information to ice core records. We sampled using both multi-rotor and a fixed wing platforms to carry remote-controlled flask sampling devices. Real time flight data of potential temperature, specific humidity, and pressure were used to determine the altitude of the planetary boundary layer (PBL), allowing samples to be obtained both above and below this layer. Flights were made to altitudes as high as 4,000 m.a.s.l (1,500 m.a.g.l.) collecting samples that were subsequently measured for δ18O and δD of water vapor using a Picarro L-2130 spectrometer on site immediately after the flight. A goal of the study is to help provide an independent estimate of water vapor exchange with the free troposphere across the PBL and tracking the isotopic signature may help to quantify net sublimation and condensation of the ice sheet via vapor transport. This has application for sampling a variety of other gas species (eg. Methane).


An Overview of Satellite Communications for Polar Research and Operations

Michael Prior-Jones, Cardiff University

Satellite communications has been a key technology for polar research in many years - whether used for operational coordination or for collecting scientific data. Until recently, for coverage poleward of 80 degrees latitude, there has been a very limited choice of satellite provider for most users: either CLS/Argos or Iridium. However, many new companies have launched satellites recent years, and some are already in commercial operation. In this presentation, I will give a complete overview of the satellite communications market, with particualar emphasis on those services that are suitable for sub-polar and polar operation. This will include both low-data-rate message-based services ("Satellite IoT") and high-data-rate streaming services, and include some practical advice on buying and using such systems.

Communications Q&A and Panel Discussion

Iridium Government Solutions

Lever abstract image

Charlie Lever, Iridium

Iridium® Government solutions provide secure access to the world’s only truly global communications network. The network features beyond line-of-sight connectivity, providing coverage everywhere on the planet. Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense for almost 20 years, Iridium has provided robust, tactical and secure real-time voice and low-latency data connections for government applications. In part due to its unique constellation of cross-linked Low-Earth Orbit satellites, Iridium-based devices can scale in size, speed and power based on mission requirements.

With aviation, maritime and land mobile applications, Iridium-enabled solutions are versatile while maintaining the secure, reliable connection needed to support missions and achieve objectives. With a first-of-its kind fixed-price contract, Iridium Enhanced Mobile Satellite Systems (EMSS) capabilities have unlimited usage and subscribers for the U.S. government on Iridium devices, including Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Through low-cost, ultra-light transceivers, Iridium IoT capabilities are easily integrated into products and provides reliable, critical data connectivity. Iridium’s prominent service coverage in the polar regions enables researchers to send video quickly and efficiently through the weather resilient Iridium Certus specialty broadband service, while also allowing them deploy IoT devices that track sea levels, temperatures, water salinity, and atmospheric composition.

MUOS Communication Coverage Beyond the Arctic Circle

Johnson abstract image

Jonathon Cheah, The MITRE Corporation
Shelley Johnson, The MITRE Corporation
Eric Robinson, The MITRE Corporation
Matthew Murray, The MITRE Corporation

The geographic coverage computation based on geosynchronous satellite ephemeris using Kepler equations has generally accepted for specifying the north-and-south most serviceable latitudes. However recent measurement data had shown that for MUOS communication coverages at the high latitudes, the results produced by Kepler computation are pessimistic. Measurement data collected by USCGC HEALY on its North Pole voyage in 2015 showed that MUOS voice and video streaming was successful at + 85o N latitude. From the 2015 data, it was determined that predominant radio signal advantage can be attained by using an antenna with an enhanced gain at low elevation angles. From the follow-on USCGC HEALY Arctic voyage in 2019, MUOS communication signal coverage was measured by using two MITRE designed Prototype low elevation radiation angle antennas to determine the signal performance improvements and the impacts of the antenna placement locations on the ship. The antenna design will be presented, describing details of fabrication, test, and measurement. Data results will be discussed, including alignment between predicted signal strengths and recorded values. The analyses of the measurements from both voyages are discussed.

Data Access and Sharing

Communication, Storage, and Computation Infrastructure for Challenged Environments

Martin Swany, Indiana University

This talk will discuss the Data Logistics Toolkit (DLT), a software system that provides primitive, composable communication, computation and storage elements that can be used to construct systems for various use cases in the field. This toolkit embodies the key idea of data logistics, which like traditional logistics, is getting data where it needs to be when it needs to be there. The toolkit can balance storage, communication, which may be intermittent, with processing that is movable and sensitive to resource constraints and availability. This allows us to construct systems that can adapt to delay- and disruption-tolerant networking, opportunistic connectivity, policy-driven content distribution, and edge computing.

Data Access and Sharing Q&A and Panel Discussion

Increasing High Resolution Data Coverage and New Possibilities in the Polar Regions

Kelleher abstract image

Cole Kelleher, Polar Geospatial Center - University of Minnesota
Cathleen Torres Parisian, Polar Geospatial Center - University of Minnesota

Remote sensing is now a fundamental part of the way we conduct polar science and logistics. Over the past decade, access to high resolution satellite imagery has allowed the polar community to capture, derive, and distribute the most detailed and accurate data sets of the polar regions the world has ever seen. Additionally, driven by polar science and logistics, high resolution imagery is now being collected on such a massive scale it surpasses the human capability to manually monitor it all. However, with today’s supercomputing capacity, the ability to create, manage and distribute derived products such as DEMs is being done at circumpolar scales. In this presentation we will discuss access and distribution of this high resolution satellite imagery and relevant derived products as well as their utility to scientific and logistical initiatives.

Using Big Data to Understand Arctic Surface Water Change

Erin Trochim, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Globally, we are rapidly adapting to the widespread availability of geospatial data and adopting to accessible cloud-based computational resources for processing it. Surface water distribution in Arctic regions is ripe for these new techniques in terms of data synthesis. Water is highly prevalent in these regions, often due to the presence of permafrost which limits infiltration into the subsurface and stores large amounts of frozen water as ice. This presentation outlines current strategies for differentiating how variability affects surface water over time. The first step was to utilize the Global Surface Water dataset available on Google Earth Engine, a global monthly 35 year dataset collocated in a robust computation environment. The second was to use existing datasets on water type characteristics including lakes and rivers and modify them from representing average conditions at a specific time period to areas of high connectivity. Third, computational efficiencies in terms of zonal analysis and summation were developed in order to further reducing analysis time. This approach offers novel and robust methods for improving standardization and synthesis of surface water in Arctic regions which can be readily extrapolated to other areas of analysis, easily repeated and used to inform policy and planning.

Overarching and Integrative Technology

Integrated Technologies for Iceberg Surveying and Monitoring: A Comprehensive Data Collection Campaign in the Labrador Sea during the 2019 Iceberg Season

Robert Briggs, C-CORE
Jon Bruce, C-CORE
Donald Rudnickas, International Ice Patrol
Ian Turnbull, C-CORE
Carl Thibaut, MakeTECH
Renat Yulmetov, C-CORE

Icebergs pose a potential hazard to shipping and offshore oil and gas production and exploration. To mitigate the risk posed by icebergs to these activities, it is essential to develop and apply technologies to monitor and survey them. Accurate size estimates are important for offshore structure design and operational criteria. Iceberg size and drift patterns are essential parameters to evaluate potential risk during operational activities when icebergs are in the vicinity of infrastructure. Drift trajectories are required as ground truth data for refining satellite based detection methodologies and evaluating the skill of iceberg drift models to make drift forecasts which feed into offshore safe operating practices.

We present a summary of recent efforts to develop technologies and methods to improve surveying and monitoring of icebergs using: (i) an integrated vessel mounted LiDAR and multibeam sonar system to generate 3D reconstructions of iceberg shapes; (ii) unmanned aerial vehicles to gather photogrammetric datasets for 3D topside reconstructions and (iii) unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver GPS tracking units onto icebergs to gather iceberg drift tracks. This culminated in a four voyage field campaign during the 2019 iceberg season in the Labrador Sea region that yielded a significant and comprehensive dataset.

Overarching and Integrative Technologies Q&A and Panel Discussion

Using Science to Improve Winter Logistics

Sally Shoop, ERDC-CRREL
Zoe Courville, ERDC-CRREL

The US Army Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), part of the Corps' Engineering Research and Development Center, has a long history of research and engineering in polar regions, from deep ice core drilling development to a wide range of solutions to polar-centric problems. More recent lab-wide efforts have focused on three main strategic areas: enhancing domain awareness, evolving Arctic infrastructure and strategic capabilities and protecting the Arctic environment. One main emphasis area for the lab has been increased maneuverability in cold regions, where we are taking a multi-pronged approach to the problem, including remote sensing basic research to ground-based measurements aimed at filling knowledge gaps and understanding fundamental processes.