Polar remote sensing using an unpiloted aerial vehicle (UAV)

Aerosonde™ UAV. 2.9-m wingspan. 13-15 kg weight. The first unmanned aircraft to cross the North Atlantic.

John Maurer

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
1680 East-West Rd., POST-815C
Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

Seminar by Dr. James Maslanik, Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research (CCAR), University of Colorado at Boulder, November 20, 2002. Overview by John Maurer for ATOC 7500, Remote Sensing Seminar (Prof. William J. Emery), University of Colorado at Boulder. Many of the images in this presentation are pulled directly from Dr. Maslanik's PowerPoint presentation.

November, 2002

Introduction  •  Specifications  •  Advantages  •  Disadvantages  •  Applications


Due to the high cost and effort to staff traditional aircraft remote sensing expeditions—coupled with the high risk associated hazardous flying conditions—some scientists are beginning to turn to unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAV) such as the Aerosonde™ pictured above as a low-cost, low-risk alternative. Thanks to GPS technology, these UAVs can be programmed to make very detailed flight patterns that can be flown automatically and in very extreme weather conditions. Specifications for the Aerosonde are provided below, as well as a discussion of its applications and its advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional (i.e. piloted) aircraft. Aerosonde is a private, commercial company based out of Melbourne, Australia. They manage a Global Reconnaissance Facility in Melbourne from which Aerosondes anywhere on the planet can be remotely controlled and monitored. Users can also choose to run Aerosonde Virtual Field Environment software on their own personal computer, thereby defining, controlling and monitoring their own flights. Aerosonde has been around since about 1995. The first UAV to fly across the Atlantic was an Aerosonde in 1997.


Click here for a design drawing of an Aerosonde.




Sea surface temp.


Detailed flight paths over sea ice.

Top of page  •  Introduction  •  Specifications  •  Advantages  •  Disadvantages  •  Applications

© 2002, John Maurer <>