There are a number of UK research aircraft now potentially available to the UK Arctic community. Those operated by BAS have extensive polar operational experience over several decades in the Antarctic, whilst the
ARSF Dornier has been used in the Arctic in recent years.
BAS operates four ski/wheel equipped De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft, of which two are equipped with sophisticated research instrumentation packages. One of the Twin Otters has a geophysics fit used extensively for sub-ice sheet studies whilst a second Twin Otter has a meteorology instrument fit.
In the past a BAS Twin Otter has been deployed on Svalbard and more recently one of these aircraft was successfully deployed at a variety of locations across the Canadian Arctic, operating out of Resolute Base on Cornwallis Island. One of these aircraft will be deployed over Svalbard in 2013 in support of an Arctic Research Programme project and it is the intention to find further opportunities to deploy these aircraft in the Arctic.
BAS also operates a larger and longer range aircraft, a De Havilland Dash 7 that is wheel equipped but can operate on blue ice and gravel runways. This has not yet been deployed in the Arctic region. It is to be be equipped with a hatch that will allow deployment of a wide range of scanning instruments, including hyperspectral sensors.
Please contact the Arctic Office in the first instance for further information regarding use of the BAS operated aircraft in the Arctic.
NERC has access to two additional research aircraft, notably a leased BAe-146 jet operated by the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements, that has a sophisticated meteorology/atmospheric chemistry instrumentation fit and a smaller Dornier 228 (operated by the Airborne Research and Survey Facility) used for surveying, remote sensing and aerial photography.
The BAe-146 is operated over Finland and Svalbard during 2012 and 2013 in support of the Arctic Research Programme. It is currently limited in its operations in the High Arctic but this will be addressed in 2013 with an upgrade to its navigational equipment which will allow operation as far as 82 deg N. This will allow access to all the Arctic land masses and substantial areas of the Arctic Ocean, though clearly, as with all the NERC aircraft, there are access issues to be addressed in each case with the relevant Arctic Rim nation.
The Dornier’s activities have included operations from Svalbard (three time since 2003), Greenland (at least three times since 2007, East and West coast) and almost yearly flights to Iceland. Projects have included mapping sea-ice, providing velocity and mass balance data from glaciers, mapping supra-glacial lakes, monitoring calving events and collecting topographic and mineralogical data. It has the capability to to be ski-equipped but is currently operated in wheeled mode and has operated from the gravel runways commonly found in the Arctic. Its payload allows it to be able to carry all the equipment required by a four man team and the team itself. Its greater range than the Twin Otters, means it can fly anywhere on Greenland and still conduct a two hour survey with multiple simultaneously operating remote sensing instruments and ancillary atmospheric instrumentation.
EUFAR which has UK representation, ‘works to coordinate the operation of instrumented aircraft and hyperspectral imaging sensors, exploiting the skills of experts in airborne measurements in the fields of environmental and geo-sciences, in order to provide researchers with the infrastructure best suited to their needs’.