Japan’s First Arctic Research Icebreaker Has an Under-Ice Drone and a Radar Dome

If you thought that only combat ships or superyachts can be cool, wait till you see what this Japanese research vessel can do. It’s like a science superhero, on a quest to save the planet.
This new research vessel will be the first icebreaker in the world to feature a Doppler radar. 7 photos
Photo: JAMSTEC/Youtube
Japan's first Arctic research icebreakerJapan's first Arctic research icebreakerJapan's first Arctic research icebreakerJapan's first Arctic research icebreakerJapan's first Arctic research icebreakerJapan's first Arctic research icebreaker
The Arctic Ocean is still one of the less accessible areas on Earth and, at the same time, one where in-depth research is needed, if we take a look at climate change and its consequences. Research expeditions have been performed throughout the years, but there’s always room for improvement when it comes to research vessel (RV) design and capabilities.

The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) has done important work with the MIRAI oceanographic research ship, that has been around since 1998, but it is now set to launch a new and improved ship, which will take MIRAI’s work to another level.

The 419 ft. (128 meters) long vessel, weighing 13,000 tons, will be a pioneer in many ways. First of all, it’s designed to become the first Japanese ship of its kind to also have icebreaking capabilities. To be more precise, it will be able to break recent (one year) layers of ice that are 3 ft. (1.2 meters) thick, at a 3 knots speed, and do so continuously.

It will also be the first icebreaking RV to be equipped with a Doppler radar for meteorological observations, including the cyclonic activities that are present in the Arctic ocean.

But the sphere-shaped radar isn’t the only interesting thing on board of this icebreaker. It also comes with not one, but 2 different drones, for sea-ice observation. The under-ice drone will be able to operate autonomously, in order to measure water temperature and currents that are right below the sea-ice, while also capturing images. And, for a safer navigation and better observation, it will communicate with an aerial drone.

This makes JAMSTEC’s innovative concept a multi-disciplinary research platform, that will perform meteorological, oceanographic and sea-ice observation. The ship and its drones are currently under development and, once completed, they will embark on journeys to the Arctic region, every 5 to 6 years.

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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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