Tracking Flights with Our First Receiver in Antarctica
At the end of December we activated our first receiver in Antarctica at the Troll Research Station operated by the Norwegian Polar Institute and on 13 January we tracked our first flight in Antarctica, a resupply flight operated by a Privatair 737, registered HB-JJA.
This particular aircraft is a Privatair 737 leased to SAS, but returned to Privatair for reconfiguration and use during that time. It will rejoin SAS for the European carrier’s summer schedule.
The flight brought personnel and materials for research conducted at Troll. This season, the station is supporting a number of different research projects, including a Norwegian, British, and Danish glaciology/radar project called POLARGAP, a Japanese research group that studies the geology and geomorphology in Queen Maud Land, and two science groups from Rhodes University, South Africa, performing Geology and Geochemistry research. There is also a science group from Norway and the UK working on a project called ICEBIRD. According to Sven Lidström, the operations coordinator at the research station, they are doing bird studies, primarily on Antarctic petrels. Troll’s satellite station Tor hosts the world’s largest colony of petrels, over 500,000 birds.
Year-round research at the station includes an environmental monitoring and clean air sampling station from Norwegian Institute for Air Research and a satellite downlink station, TrollSat, run by Kongsberg.
Hosting the Receiver
The Norwegian Polar Institute installed a Flightradar24 receiver primarily as a flight safety measure and for flight following of their intercontinental flights. Lidström also noted that, “in the future we see the potential to follow research flight activities in the area.”
The Antarctic climate provides challenging conditions for hosting a receiver. In order to host the receiver Troll installed the equipment in the environmental monitoring and clean air sampling station from NILU, since it is the highest location at the station with power and an Internet connection.
The station’s Internet connection is provided by Kongsberg. Lidström says, “the satellite data they download here is transferred using geostationary satellites with high bandwidth of which we can use a piece.” Another challenge to electronic equipment in Antarctica is one that is not apparent at first. Because Antarctica is considered a frozen desert, static electricity is always a concern.
Thanks to the great location of the receiver at 4000ft, the visibility and coverage are excellent and allow us to track flights up to about 300nm away.
Resupply flights operate from the runway cleared on the blue ice near the station. The flights depart Cape Town and travel south to Troll taking approximately six hours to arrive. Aircraft are serviced and refueled at Troll before returning to South Africa.
All photos from Troll Research Station courtesy Sven Lidström, Norwegian Polar Institute.