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Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 13 May 2019

Research article | 13 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems (GI).

In-situ measurements of the ice flow motion at Eqip Sermia Glacier using a remotely controlled UAV

Guillaume Jouvet1, Eef van Dongen1, Martin P. Lüthi2, and Andreas Vieli2 Guillaume Jouvet et al.
  • 1Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. Measuring the ice flow motion accurately is essential to better understand the time evolution of glaciers and ice sheets, and therefore to better anticipate the future consequence of climate change in terms of sea-level rise. Although there exist a variety of remote sensing methods to fill this task, in-situ measurements are always needed for validation or to capture high temporal resolution movements. Yet glaciers are in general hostile environments where the installation of instruments might be tedious and risky when not impossible. Here we report the first-ever in-situ measurements of ice flow motion using a remotely controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). We used a multicopter UAV to land on a highly crevassed area of Eqip Sermia Glacier, West Greenland, to measure the displacement of the glacial surface with the aid of an on-board differential GNSS receiver. Despite the unfortunate loss of the UAV, we measured approximately 70 cm of displacement over 4.36 hours without setting foot onto the glacier – a result validated by applying UAV photogrammetry and template matching techniques. Our study demonstrates that UAVs are promising instruments for in-situ monitoring, and have a great potential for capturing short-term ice flow variations in inaccessible glaciers – a task that remote sensing techniques can hardly achieve.

Guillaume Jouvet et al.
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Guillaume Jouvet et al.
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