A Penguin B drone has now been handed over to Aarhus University and is ready to explore Greenland

With a wingspan of more than three metres and a cruising speed of approximately 80 km/h, Denmark’s first large polar exploration drone of this type is now heading north. Here it will form part of the ultra-modern arsenal of research instruments at the Villum Research Station. On Monday 13 March, the drone was formally transferred to Aarhus University at a ceremony at Hans Christian Andersen Airport in Odense.

2017.03.22 | Rasmus Rørbæk

Professor Henrik Skov and Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen with the motor shield of the drone now handed over to Aarhus University. (Photos: Rasmus Rørbæk)

Guests enjoyed a number of scientific presentations showing the extent to which drones have been used in research. The drone at right will now go on missions at the Villum Research Station.

The missions will take place approximately 900 kilometres from the North Pole, and this is the first large polar research drone of its type. The wingspan is 3.3 metres and the drone has a length of 2.3 metres altogether.

Michael Thorsen, Integra Aerial Services, hands over the keys to Professor Henrik Skov.

Danish Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate Lars Christian Lilleholt shows a keen interest in the drone’s future missions when he arrives at the ceremony.

With the establishment of the Villum Research Station at Station Nord in Greenland in 2015, Danish and international researchers were provided with the best possible opportunities to study the very significant climate change, and create knowledge about its impact on the environment, flora and fauna. The research station is located in the northernmost part of Greenland, only approximately 900 kilometres from the North Pole.

On Monday 13 March, the ultra-modern research station was given a technological boost when Professor Henrik Skov was entrusted on behalf of Science and Technology with the first of a total of three remote-controlled drones that will be used in Greenland to study the ice sheet (inland ice) and provide science with access to new ways of creating an overview of the significance of climate change. This took place at Hans Christian Andersen (HCA) Airport in Odense, where the invited guests had an opportunity to see the drone at close range and hear about the latest drone technology and the research carried out at the Villum Research Station.

“What’s essential about these drones is that they make it possible to gather data more frequently and at a lower cost than flying manned missions, for example. This drone was designed so that it can contribute to the research activities planned at the Villum Research Station, and can make it possible to create new understanding of the processes that take place in different types of ice,” says Professor Skov.

Penguin B is equipped with a number of different instruments that can all withstand very low temperatures. This is ensured by tests that included a cold store, where the drone was cooled down to approximately minus 25 degrees. Its cruising speed is about 80 km/h, and its ‘fighting weight’ when it is sent on missions in Greenland will be approximately 25 kg.

On board, the drone is equipped with a laser scanner and GPS, which will be able to measure the ice with an accuracy of a few centimetres. The drone’s small computer has the capacity of a standard work computer, but all components have been minimalised and assembled in a small area at the front of the craft. The drone is now ready for action after being subjected to extensive tests at HCA Airport, which is home to a considerable number of drone activities.

“The Penguin B drone came about via a grant from the VILLUM FOUNDATION, making it possible to create one of the world’s most advanced research stations north of the polar circle, and a unique collaboration between Aarhus University and DTU Space, as well as a number of private companies with Integra Aerial Services as the major player.

This national collaboration is a strong example of research and industry entering into value-creating synergy. For Science and Technology, it’s a crucial and positive development that this type of project is becoming increasingly possible. It’s a development that we really welcome,” says Dean Niels Chr. Nielsen, Science and Technology, Aarhus University.

Congratulations to us all
Danish Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate Lars Christian Lilleholt (Venstre – the Liberal Party of Denmark) also attended the ceremony. He took the opportunity to put into perspective the importance of Danish research in the climate area, and also expressed congratulations on the latest advanced technology research platform now in place at the Villum Research Station.

“I’d like to congratulate Aarhus University, the collaborating parties and all of Denmark on the new and ultra-modern research drone,” said the minister at the handover event.

“As minister for the climate area, I’m pleased that we can now send a drone to Greenland, where it can study the impact of climate change. It’s attracted considerable international attention, and the talented researchers working in this field at Aarhus University – and other places – are well ahead. When I’m abroad, I’m always impressed by the efforts being made at home. I look forward to hearing more about the discoveries made by this Penguin B,” he added.

The VILLUM FOUNDATION played a vital role in establishing the Villum Research Station, donating a total of DKK 70.5 million for setting up the buildings, laboratories, field material and ultra-modern advanced instruments, including mobile laboratories, drones, land-based remote sensors, snowmobiles, etc. in an otherwise inaccessible landscape far from civilisation. Since the opening in 2015, Arctic researchers from all over the world have used the facilities in the far north, consisting of state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment.

Read more about the drone now being sent to Greenland here.

In the short video below, the drone can be seen flying over HCA Airport. It has a cruising speed of 80 km/h. Click on the four arrows at bottom right to see the video in larger format.

Science and Technology, Public / media, Staff
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