Yeti robot scans polar ice to warn researchers of dangerous crevasses

yeti robot
© Kirsten L. Mabry

A new robot is roaming the earth's poles in the name of science. The Yeti robot, designed by Dartmount undergraduate engineering students, is helping researchers to carry out their work more safely by detecting buried crevasses and other hazards in the ice. Even better, it was made on the cheap.

“It’s simple and inexpensive, yet effective,” said Laura Ray to National Geographic News, an engineer at Dartmouth College and Yeti project leader.

“On a $20,000 budget, designing from the ground up, undergraduates designed [and] fabricated a very reliable robot.”

Before now, research crews descending on the Arctic or Antarctica have relied on using manual ground-penetrating radar surveys to find dangerous areas in the ice, which was a risky undertaking in itself. The battery-powered Yeti uses ground-penetrating radar and GPS to detect those dangerous zones autonomously and then relay that information back to research crews.

The Yeti has proven itself capable of reliably detecting hazards in temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit, covering uneven snowy ground and accumulating data on hundreds of crevasses. It has been used on 12 projects so far and in one project at the South Pole, located three buried buildings that could have been dangerous for the researchers.

An added bonus is that all the data on crevasses will also give scientists useful information on changes in the ice due to climate change.

See the rover in action below.

Tags: Antarctica | Arctic | Technology

Best of TreeHugger