Watch: Drone guides HMS Protector through stunning Antarctic sea ice

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The Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship HMS Protector has launched tiny pilotless aircraft from her decks for the first time to assist with navigating through the Antarctic.

A quadcopter and a 3D-printed aircraft have scouted the way for the survey ship so she can find her way through the thick ice of frozen seas.

The Royal Navys ice patrol ship HMS Protector has launched tiny pilotless aircraft from her decks for the first time to assist with navigating through the Antarctic.  
Picture: L(Phot) Nicky Wilson

The Royal Navys ice patrol ship HMS Protector has launched tiny pilotless aircraft from her decks for the first time to assist with navigating through the Antarctic. Picture: L(Phot) Nicky Wilson

It’s the first time the Royal Navy has used unmanned aerial vehicles in this part of the world. The Service has been operating ScanEagle ‘eyes in sky’ from frigates in the Gulf for the past couple of years which feed vital live imagery back to ships on maritime security patrols.

The craft launched from Protector are smaller and less hi-tech, but still provided the icebreaker with real-time high-quality information courtesy of a detailed picture of the surrounding environment from a perspective that is only available from the air.

The quadcopter has been used for short-range reconnaissance missions, while the 3D-prin ted mini aircraft has been sent off on longer patrols.

The brainchild of experts at Southampton University, the Laser-Sintered Aircraft – shortened to SULSA – is made of nylon, printed in four major parts and assembled without the use of any tools – it is the world’s first ‘printed’ airplane.