Warsaw University of Technology Mission in the Antarctic


It only takes seven meters for them to lift up in the air and their main goal is to check the population of penguins in the Antarctic and to make an orthophotomap of the researched area. What we are talking about here are the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) constructed by a team from the Institute of Aeronautics and Applied Mechanics (Faculty of Power and Aeronautical Engineering).

A novel approach to monitoring the impact of climate change on Antarctic ecosystems. (Acronim: MONICA) is a project financed by the Polish – Norwegian Research Programme operated by the National Centre for Research and Development.

The main goal of the project is to study impact of climate change on Antarctic ecosystem and biodiversity. The Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is exhibiting rapid regional warming. The study area on King George Island is located in the WAP region. Therefore the climate change poses a new challenge to the survival of Antarctic wildlife. Changes in land and marine ecosystems of the Antarctica result in changes of the range and abundance of the birds and marine mammals, as well as distribution of vascular plants which are an important ecological bioindicators.

This project utilizes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to collect baseline geospatial environmental data, which will be used to monitor climate change effects. In particular, we will study selected impacts of climate change on ecosystems and biodiversity, by quantifications of seal, penguin populations, flora distribution and glacier retreats. With the UAV-data we also develop high resolution vegetation maps and study changes in vegetation cover from previous mappings, and we will map new vegetation where glaciers have retreated. Maps demonstrating distribution and condition of biotic and abiotic environmental components will be created.

Data collection will take place using UAVs recording data in multiple spectral ranges. An integral part of the study will include developing methods for processing digital multispectral images from various types of sensors carried by the UAVs. Data processing will be based on remote sensing algorithms used on the aerial photogrammetric material as well as on author’s own ground based methods developed by scientists participating in the project.