The Arctic is a critically important environment with a strong influence on global climate and is a significant source of oceanic primary production. Scientists, researchers and governments have monitored the Arctic environment for decades by the use of aircraft, satellites and in situ measurements at the surface. However, collecting the necessary data for proper analysis of the changes and conditions in the Arctic has been extremely difficult, presenting technological, environmental and human challenges that call for innovative approaches to address and overcome the many barriers that the region presents. Foremost being remoteness, severe weather, and lack of infrastructure to support science missions. A potential solution to many of those problems is the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), also known as unmanned aircraft systems, or ‘UAS’. The use of UAS for environmental research in the Arctic began in 1999 with research conducted by the University of Colorado and funded by the National Science Foundation to deploy small, low altitude, long endurance UAS from Barrow, Alaska. The number of science missions in the Arctic that have used UAS has gradually increased over the ensuing eleven years. In 2010/11, Arctic UAS missions were performed in the United States, Norway, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, and Russia by at least five different operators of scientific UAS.
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