Robot sub maps underside of Antarctic ice in 3-D

Scientists have made a map of sea ice in eastern Antarctica in 3-D. The map will show the amount of ice in the region, which is important for understanding how climate change is affecting Antarctica.

On a two-month voyage to the region on the Australian Antarctic Division’s icebreaker Aurora Australis, the Australian researchers used helicopters and a special, autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to produce a map of both the top and underside of the extensive sea ice, finding peaks and valleys that resemble land topography.

The underwater vehicle swims 65 feet (20 meters) below the ice, traveling in a “lawn mower” grid-pattern and using sonar to make a map of the ice. Data collected by the vehicle is stored in an onboard computer and converted into a 3-D map at the end of each survey.

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