Exploring Polar & Planetary Frontiers with Science-Driven Robotics | Robotics for Climate Change Workshop @ ICRA 2022

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About the Video:
Beneath ice shelves on Earth, processes such as accretion, melt and circulation mediate the interaction between the ocean and the ice. These are an important element of Earth’s climate system, contributing to the evolution of the cryosphere, and in some cases can destabilize ice shelves and ice sheets in our warming climate.

And yet despite the critical role of these processes in a changing world, they are extremely challenging to observe given the harsh environment and thickness of the ice. Exploring the cryosphere can also form the foundation of our understanding of other ocean worlds and provide a test bed for their exploration. To address the limitations in these observations, an under ice robotic platform, Icefin, was developed to explore beneath the ice and reach previously inaccessible regions that are critical to observe to understand these complex systems. By designing the robotic system iteratively with its science goals, Icefin has allowed for first-of-their-kind observations of the climate system, constrain oceanographic conditions, geologic and glaciological context, and provide information on the ecosystems below the ice in ways not possible with less customized tools. In 2020, Icefin was used to reach the grounding line of a major glacier for the first time.

This presentation describes some of the lessons learned in developing science-driven robotic platforms for Earth and planetary exploration. It highlights work on the McMurdo and Ross Ice Shelves as well as the Thwaites Glacier during the austral summers 2017- 2022, supported by NASA, NSF, NERC and Antarctica New Zealand. It also comments on the opportunity for robotic solutions to environmental science problems, and how to synergize across engineering and science disciplines to be more efficient and effective. These new robotic capabilities enable the gathering of unique new data relevant to climate and planetary science, and the development of techniques for exploring the Earth and one day Jupiter’s moon Europa, an ice-covered world not so unlike our own.

About the Speakers:
- Tahiya Salam is a doctoral student studying robotics in the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests lie at the intersection of multi-robot teams, dynamical systems, and machine learning. She is a co-organizer of the Robotics for Climate Change Workshop at ICRA 2022.
- Matt Meister is a Lead Engineer of the Icefin project at Georgia Institute of Technology. He is leading the engineering development of a robotic sampling arm that will be used to take samples below Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf.

Recorded at the Robotics for Climate Change Workshop during the 2022 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).

Produced in partnership with the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (https://www.ieee-ras.org/).
Recording funded in part by a grant from the United Engineering Foundation (https://www.uefoundation.org/).

About the Video:
Beneath ice shelves on Earth, processes such as accretion, melt and circulation mediate the interaction between the ocean and the ice. These are an important element of Earth’s climate system, contributing to the...

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