Navigating beneath the Arctic ice

Under the ice, there is no GPS reception. But mapping the Arctic Ocean beneath the ice sheet is essential to understanding the effects of climate change. MIT has now developed a navigation method based on sound.

Screenshot of "Understandic the Arctic" (MIT Mechanical Engineering)

The Arctic is getting warmer. And warmer water, combined with changing ice composition, is affecting how sound travels in the water. To successfully navigate the Arctic, it's important to understand how these changes affect the way a vehicle navigates through the water.

Researchers at the U.S. University of MIT, in collaboration with the U.S. Navy, have now developed a method for autonomous vehicles to navigate accurately under the ice - despite a lack of GPS reception.

New routes through the dwindling ice

The sound-based method will make it easier to map the ocean beneath the ice sheet. This is important for understanding what role this changing environment in the Arctic Ocean plays in global climate change.

But the changes also have geopolitical significance: because the disappearing ice could open up new shipping lanes and trade routes in areas that were previously impassable. "If the Arctic environment is changing and we don't understand it, that could have implications in terms of national security," MIT shared.

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