Drone helps ship through Antarctic ice

The icebreaker Aurora Australis. (AAP)

The icebreaker Aurora Australis. (AAP)

Australian expeditioners have for the first time used a drone to help guide their ship through sea ice en route to Antarctica.

Fitted with a camera, the unmanned aerial vehicle was sent into the sky five times above the icebreaker Aurora Australis as it navigated its way to Casey Station last week.

On deck at the controls was James Rennie who said technicians overcame many challenges including that the drone’s batteries struggled at times in the cold conditions.

But the benefits of quick, real-time imagery outweighed any hurdles.

‘Unlike deploying a helicopter from a ship, a drone can be launched in a matter of minutes, costs little to operate and saves valuable cargo space,’ he said.

Footage from the drone was released by the Australian Antarctic Division on Wednesday and shows the giant orange ship as it ploughs through massive sheets of ice.

The vessel already uses satellite imagery and radar on its voyages, and the AAD will look into the trial of the drone when considering its future use.

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