The final frontier in UAV flight has been breached! In an apparent first, scientists have successfully flown an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in the icy terrain of Antarctica. A British Scientific Expedition team collaborated with the Brunswick University of Science and Technology, Germany to develop UAV's that will gather vital data about the continent. The data will be used in studying climate changes and the melting of glaciers. Radio-controlled during all operations (except take-offs and landings), the UAV runs on a pre-specified patch schedule. In a number of trials (20 to be precise) conducted between Oct and Dec '07, the UAV traveled up to 45 kms and executed 100 measurements per second. However, the team found it extremely challenging to keep the UAV's batteries alive at extreme sub-zero temperatures. At the same time, the radio control also posed a serious issue in the beginning. With all issues sorted out, the unmanned vehicle successfully completed flights that lasted 40 minutes each.
The UAV is powered by Lithium Ion Polymer batteries and the take-off is executed with the help of a catapult. Weighing 6 kilograms and spanning 2 metres across the wings, the UAV is a major breakthrough in robotic research studies. With compelling issues like Global Warming cropping up, this achievement would contribute significantly to the study of Antarctica's hostile environment.