Robotic Mini-Snowmobiles Tested on Icefield
SEAMONSTER (Southeast Alaska Monitoring Network for Science Telecommunications Education and Research)
A NASA grant through UAS SEAMONSTER (Southeast Alaska Monitoring Network for Science Telecommunications Education and Research) brought a prototype robot for its first test in Alaska to the Juneau Icefield June 7-13. The “SnoMote” is a small two-foot long robotic snowmobile. It is outfitted with sensors, gauges and cameras that could ultimately help monitor climate change.
The test was hosted by UAS Environmental Science professor Matt Heavner. "We're building a wireless web of sensors that will enable all of the SnoMotes to act autonomously, each programmed with an assigned coverage area and set of measurements to seek," said Heavner.
Georgia Tech associate professor Ayanna Howard, who developed the prototype, was part of a research team that came to Juneau. “In order to say with certainty how climate change affects the world’s ice, scientists need accurate data points to validate their climate models,” said Howard. “Our goal was to create rovers that could gather more accurate data to help scientists create better climate models. It’s definitely science-driven robotics.”
Howard is working with Heavner to broadcast SnoMote data on the Web for easy access by scientists. "With a comprehensive system that boasts a communications infrastructure, mobile sensors with moving data streams, plus existing weather stations and Global Positioning System measurements of glacier motion, the entire network will be able to alert scientists, in real time, about what may be happening, let's say, when an Arctic lake is draining," said Heavner.
Prof. Heavner is an associate professor of physics and the principal investigator on the $881,755 NASA SEAMONSTER grant.
SEAMONSTER weather stations and water quality monitoring indicate how Lemon Creek and other watersheds in Southeast Alaska are responding to melting of the Juneau Ice Sheet due to climate change.
The SnoMotes research is funded by a grant from NASA’s Advanced Information Systems Technology (AIST) Program.