Blog Post Fully automated support of ice breaker activities with near-real time radar images from space

Posted on October 6th, 2016 at 16:30 PM by Lasse Rabenstein

Ice breakers traversing ice infested waters save fuel and time by choosing the most trafficable route. Finding such routes is a difficult task which needs years of experience and a technique to observe the continuously changing ice conditions ahead. If available, helicopter flights are a suitable but expensive surveying tool. The ice situation closer by can be surveyed with a ship-based ice radar. However, to get an overall impression of the ice situation along the planned route, satellite images are inevitable.

The two Sentinel-1 satellites from the European Space Agency (ESA) take radar images of ice covered oceans in the Arctic and Antarctic several times a day. These images are independent of weather and light conditions. Sentinel-1 data are open data and therefore available free of charge.

Nevertheless, it is a considerable effort to ensure that the most recent Sentinel-1 radar images around a ship’s position are available on board. And this as fast as possible to account for continuously changing ice conditions. Drift & Noise Polar Services offers fully automated and customized Sentinel-1 images of the ice situation around your ship, available in sizes transferable via an Iridium satellite connection, several times a day and less than three hours after satellite recording. The most recent cruise of the research ice breaker Polarstern is being supported in this manner (see figure above). If you are interested to support your own polar activity with satellite radar images, please do not hesitate to contact us under