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Characterization of the internal structure and geometry of the Ward Hunt ice rise using 3D drone based ground-penetrating radar

Bastien Ruols


University of Lausanne

Lay summary

Along the last three years, the Cold Regions Applied Geophysics group from the University of Lausanne has worked on the development of an innovative device to collect radar data above glaciers: a drone-based system. It allows for safe and efficient acquisitions of unprecedented 3D datasets, and has been extensively used around the Swiss Alps, with the objective of looking at temporal variations of glacier’s internal hydrology and dynamics. A first publication, summarizing all the technical aspects of our system was published in the Journal of Glaciology in November of 2023.

With the financial help from the Swiss Polar Institute, we are now aiming to deploy it in the high-Arctic. This expedition, in collaboration with the Geocryolab from the University of Montréal, targets the Ward Hunt Island, the northernmost land of Canada, lying at 83°N. We have two main objectives. First, operate our device for the first time in a polar area, and learn how such extreme environment (cold temperature, lower GPS satellites coverage) affects its performance as well as our precise survey methodology. We have little doubt that drone-based GPR will play an important role into polar science in a near future, and that would be a first stone added to the wall. Second, help our collaborators to investigate the Ward Hunt ice rise, a glaciological structure that formed over the ice shelf. Ice rises are well studied and documented around the Antarctic continent but remain more unknown in the Arctic. Our data, in addition of other geophysical measurements by the Geocryolab planned for the next years, might lead to the better understanding of such mysterious features.


Regional focus Arctic
Location Ward Hunt Island
Funded amount 16,000 CHF
Project dates 25th April 2024 – 31st July 2024
Category Polar Access Fund
near surface geophysics, ice rise, ice shelf, ground-pentrating radar, subsea permafrost