Monitoring climate change impact on a glacier with a drone

The eBee X provides critical insights to understand the consequences on a Canadian glacier


Share | 09/29/2023

Dan Shugar, an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth, Energy, and Environment at the University of Calgary in Canada, along with his team, is employing the eBee X fixed-wing drone to conduct detailed monitoring of the Salmon Glacier, known for its significant potential as a natural hazard.

Shugar’s team aims to investigate the impact of climate change on the glacier and its associated consequences, including glacier retreat and river piracy, which have implications for ecosystems, communities, and infrastructure.

Additionally, they are estimating potential rises in river and sea levels due to glacier melting. This information is crucial for assessing future flood risks.

The team captures high-resolution images of both the glacier (the area adjacent to Summit Lake) and the lake itself, using the eBee X’s Duet M RGB and multispectral camera. They have chosen it for its ability to produce different outputs in the same flight, such as Digital Terrain Models (DTM) or NIR ratio indexes, which are highly useful in glacier mapping to study automated glacier facies and su-praglacier debris.

The University of Calgary is studying the Impact of climate change on the glacier and its associated consequences, including river piracy. Picture: Dan Shugar.

For the University of Calgary’s team, the eBee X drone was the ideal choice due to its ability to cover larger areas and its RTK capabilities. “Lots of projects I have in mind are not suitable for placing ground control, so the ability to use a base station and transmit corrections was ideal,” Shugar states.

The researchers have a terrestrial LiDAR system that could complement the drone data in the future. However, the UAS remains the best solution regarding the team’s safety, as access to the glacier can be dangerous.

Dan Shugar, Associate Professor at the University of Calgary in Canada, launching the eBee X drone in the surroundings of the Salmon Glacier.

The invaluable data collected with the eBee X provides critical insights into these dynamic natural systems, offering a clearer understanding of the magnitude of climate change. Moreover, it aids in developing strategies for environmental preservation and mitigating future destructive hazards.  

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