Communications and Electronics Section

Better Caving Through Electrical Stuff

Navigation and Communications Under and Through the Ice in Antarctica

Navigation and Communications Under and Through the Ice in Antarctica

Taking Radiolocation to the ends of the Earth

In the fall of 2015 I spent 2 ½ months in Antarctica working on a NASA funded project called SIMPLE, which stands for Sub-ice Investigation of Marine and PLanetary-analog Ecosystems.  My main task was radiolocating the unmanned underwater vehicle ARTEMIS to aid in improving its dead reckoning navigation under the ice, and for emergencies.  A second task was to test ways of communicating with ARTEMIS through the ice.  Stone Aerospace (Bill Stone) in Austin Texas built and fielded the ARTEMIS vehicle, which carried many science sensors.

I constructed a radiobeacon for ARTEMIS with a large ferrite rod antenna and push-pull Class-E amplifier.  I also designed a 2MHz radio system with a floating wire antenna to attempt 2-way RF communications through the ice.

High winds and white-outs delayed camp construction for a month.

ARTEMIS was deployed through an ice hole for several data gathering missions.  At pre-programmed stops, I would radiolocate the vehicle and record its GPS location.  Radiolocation was very challenging due to the highly electrically conductive sea water and the very uneven conductivity of the ice.  I eventually succeeded in every location attempted.

The 2MHz radio tests with ARTEMIS were not attempted due to a bad connection deep inside the vehicle.  A fixed test with the floating antenna placed under the ice failed due to the unusual nature of the sea ice.

Presented at the Communications and Electronics Section meeting at the 2016 NSS Convention in Ely, NV, by Brian Pease,

NSS2016 Under Ice Nav And Com.pdf