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2017 field program

In June 2017 C-CORE conducted a high-tech iceberg data collection program in Bonavista Bay, NL, aimed at developing methods to better survey and monitor these beautiful, often unpredictable, natural phenomena.  The research team, led by remote sensing scientist Dr. Peter McGuire and ice researcher Dr. Rob Briggs, spent two days at sea in the coastal waters off Bonavista where they could get close to many icebergs of various sizes. At about 2000 tonnes, the largest surveyed was almost 300 metres across, 40 metres high and 70 metres deep.  

All operations were completed without accident or injury, despite the occasional bout of sea sickness in heavy swell. 

Their vessel, a nine-metre double-hulled catamaran, carried hull-mounted LIDAR and SONAR sensors – the LIDAR to image icebergs above the waterline, and the SONAR, below. As it circled around an iceberg, the sensors took thousands of “snapshots”, capturing data points that were relayed back to a ship-board computer and used to very rapidly create 3D models of the iceberg. The 3D models are being used by C-CORE to better understand the factors determining an

iceberg’s drift direction and melt, and to create accurate computer simulations of iceberg interaction with infrastructure and with the seabed. This will help engineers develop better, safer designs for vessels, platforms and wellheads, and plan the best routing and burial depths for pipelines and seabed cables. They will also be incorporated into C-CORE’s Towing Decision Support software to help ice management personnel make the best possible towing decisions.

Using a large multi-copter UAV, the field team also delivered GPS tracking beacons onto the icebergs, so that they could monitor their drift. The beacons were designed by C-CORE to adhere to the iceberg and transmit continuously until it rolled or broke apart. The GPS data is being used to advance understanding of – and eventually to predict - iceberg drift and ultimate fate. The program also integrated images from the Canadian radar satellite RADARSAT-2. Unlike optical satellites, RADARSAT-2 can “see” through cloud, fog, rain and darkness – very important for collecting data offshore Newfoundland. Images acquired over the program area are being matched with the iceberg profiles to improve image analysis and help analysts to better distinguish between icebergs and ships in satellite radar imagery. C-CORE conducts field programs every year or so, gathering the data that can feed multiple research programs for many years. The data collected this summer is being used in three separate programs, and from past experience we expect there will be uses in the future that we can’t yet imagine.

Field programs are also an opportunity to collaborate with other Newfoundland and Labrador companies – like Seamatica, who custom-designed, built and piloted the drone, and Maritime Survey Services, who provided and operated the vessel. We believe that by working together, our province’s research community can accomplish more than any of us alone.

C-CORE’s 2017 summer field program was jointly funded by the ongoing research projects to which the data contributes. These projects are conducted under contracts with clients in the oil and gas industry, Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC). The program required many months of planning, taking into consideration: personnel safety and certification, equipment specifications and availability, scheduling of satellite image captures, regulations around flying drones, potential environmental impacts, weather windows, and even insurance.

The program was filmed by the Discovery Channel and the resulting piece aired on the Daily Planet show on August 31st.  Footage of the icebergs taken by the Seamatica drone operator can be viewed on C-CORE's Facebook page @ccore1975