Researchers at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth have developed the Yeti Robot - a battery-powered four-wheel drive rover designed to explore treacherous terrain at research sites in Greenland and the Antarctica.
Searching for possible risks in areas such as Antarctica have commonly involved using manual ground-penetrating radar surveys.
The Yeti Robot, designed by a research team led by Dartmouth’s Laura Ray, a professor of engineering at Thayer School of Engineering combines a radar and global positioning system to detect and measure any danger on research sites in uninhabitable areas such as the Antarctica.
At present, scientists are using a ground-penetrating radar system that is guiding movement of a vehicle across ice sheets in the polar regions. However, the biggest issue here is that hidden crevasses immediately pose a danger to moving objects over such voids in this type of terrain.
Being able to detect this danger is key to any research facility setting up on ice sheets to study the history of climate change and exploring the nature of life in extreme environments.
The data collected from Yeti will be ground-penetrating radar surveys on the conditions of polar ice sheets.
There have been three major deployment projects for Yeti including two in Antarctica and one in Greenland. Ph.D. candidate Rebecca Williams at Thayer School, Dartmouth talks about the main objective of this project in more detail in the following video:
Video courtesy of Thayer School Dartmouth.
Yeti has been designed to operate in sub-zero temperatures at -30°C and, with capabilities including good GPS accuracy for waypoint-following and hazard geo-referencing, this robot can function successfully over snow and can generate masses of data on the number of crevasses detected.
This data will help scientists understand the routes occupying deep crevasses and to use this information to develop an algorithm that can be incorporated into an automated system capable of detecting such hazards more efficiently, which also helps to improve assessment confidence.
Collectively, this data will help scientists to better understand the evolution of uninhabitable regions such as the Antarctica. One important objective to deploying Yeti is to investigate how polar ice sheets are changing and transforming as the globe continues to heat up - Let’s hope Yeti has the answers.
Lever J.H., et al. Autonomous GPR Surveys using the Polar Rover Yeti. Journal of Field Robotics. 2013;30(2):194-215.