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The Polar 6 research aircraft stands in front of Neumayer Station in Antarctica and is being prepared for the flight

Alfred Wegener Institute

Customized hardware in extreme applications

Special customers

need special

One of these is the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), which uses special measurement technology from S.E.A. for research in the polar oceans that is exclusively tailored to these requirements. This is not only about the measurement technology, but also about form factors and extreme environmental conditions.

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AWI polar research aircraft with Aircraft Data Acquisition (ADA) unit from S.E.A. Datentechnik GmbH.
AWI polar research aircraft with Aircraft Data Acquisition module (ADA)

Aircraft Data Acquisition ADA

applicable under extreme conditions from −40 to +60 °C.

A special ADA data acquisition system was developed in collaboration with the Alfred Wegener Institute for the measurement data acquisition of the Polar 5 and Polar 6 research aircraft.
This consists, among other things, of an ADA-N unit, which acquires measurement data from various sensors for studying the atmosphere, digitizes them and assigns a precise time stamp. In order to achieve the high requirements in terms of time synchronization, signal processing is carried out using real-time controllers and FPGA technology based on the NI CompactRIO platform. Since some of the measurement sensors are mounted in the front area of the aircraft on a so-called nose boom, the ADA-N unit must also be housed in the front area of the aircraft outside the pressurized cabin and thus withstand extreme weather conditions from −40 to +60 °C and strong vibrations. Only a special mechanical enclosure designed by S.E.A. and technical adaptations to the CompactRIO system made its use under these conditions possible.

ADA-N Data acquisition unit

Further ADA units are installed inside the aircraft. They serve to record additional measurement data and as servers for data storage. These systems are partly designed in 19″ rack technology, whereby the high requirements regarding environmental conditions, vibrations and operation as aeronautical equipment also had to be taken into account during development.
Continuous support and further development by S.E.A. enabled the reliable operation of the ADA systems during the numerous polar expeditions of the last years.

Data acquisition unit and screen view of 3D design
T-Bird measuring probe for large-area measurement of atmospheric conditions

Data acquisition module ADA-T

Due to the success of the ADA systems, further measurement data acquisition systems for use in polar research have been realized in recent years.
The ADA-T system was developed for data acquisition during the measurement of atmospheric turbulence. With the help of a towed probe, which is flown over the polar ice with one of the research aircraft, different sensors record the air changes. The ADA-T system ensures the precise temporal and spatial allocation of the sensor data.
In addition to the high environmental requirements, the mechanical integration into the towed probe was a particular challenge. An individually designed metal housing integrates the NI CompactRIO system and all the necessary connectors in a very confined space. This was ensured by the possibilities of S.E.A.’s own 3D design.

Ice thickness radar data acquisition unit for the AWI

Ice Thickness Radar – EMR data acquisition module

The EMR data acquisition module is part of an ice thickness radar for flight operations with the Polar 6 research aircraft. The purpose of the EMR data acquisition module is to evaluate the radar echo of a 150 MHz signal transmitted from the aircraft against solid ice. Again, S.E.A., in collaboration with the Alfred Wegener Institute, designed and built this module to replace a defective EMR module.

which we meet with experience and flexibility

Hardware design

Whenever possible, it pays to fall back on the tried and true. Sometimes, however, it makes more sense to recreate the world so that everything meets the requirements. For this purpose, sometimes a 3D program and a skilled designer are all that’s needed.

Electronics design

is not always the biggest challenge in a project. But sometimes it is necessary to make even the best even better. In this project, the measurement technology was already excellently suitable in many places, but in others it was only excellent, but still far from suitable.

RF design

We also find a solution for unusual tasks. Here, our RF specialists were challenged to make our customer happy. In this case, however, it is the measurement result that should force us all to rethink: The ice is disappearing.

Environment design

Even though the ice is melting, it is still quite cold on site for the measurement technology. This was one of the challenges of the project. Measurement technology doesn’t like to get cold feet. Sometimes a little warmth is needed to bring someone out of hibernation.

View from the helicopter: Polarstern on its journey through the sea ice

MOSAiC Expedition

With the MOSAiC Expedition, the largest research expedition ever conducted in the Arctic started in September 2019. The German research icebreaker Polarstern drifted through the Arctic Ocean for one year under the leadership of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research. The goal was to explore the Arctic as an epicenter of global warming on the ground and to gain essential insights for a better understanding of global climate change. Hundreds of researchers from 20 countries analyzed the atmosphere, sea ice, ocean, ecosystem, and biogeochemical processes. Several supply icebreakers, helicopters, airplanes, snowmobiles and snowcats were used in the logistical mammoth project.

Graphic on research topics of the MOSAiC expedition

The research questions

Nowhere else is climate change with its constant consequences as obvious and vivid for everyone as in the Antarctic and Arctic.

Everyone knows the images that go around the world as a symbol of dramatic global warming, polar bears whose habitat is melting away, huge glaciers that are melting at an unprecedented rate and, for example, are already making the rise in sea level visible and tangible for many island states.

The Arctic is the key early warning system for climate change and a central focus of climate research.
However, crucial data is still missing to adapt climate models to the rapid development and to be able to make more reliable forecasts.

Two polar research aircraft Inuvik Canada

The Polar 5 and Polar 6
research aircraft

The Polar 5 and Polar 6 research aircraft are used by the Alfred Wegener Institute for research in the Arctic and Antarctic. They are of the Basler BT-67 type and are designed for use under extreme conditions, such as landing on snow runways and flying blind at temperatures as low as −54 °C.

Accordingly, the measurement hardware built by S.E.A. also has to be designed for these conditions.

The aircraft fly several missions a year to better understand and study processes in the Arctic and Antarctic.

T-Bird measuring probe for large-area measurement of atmospheric conditions
T-Bird measuring probe for large-area measurement of atmospheric conditions

Flying measurement probes in polar research

The Alfred Wegener Institute operates measurement probes for large-scale surveys of atmospheric conditions and ice thickness.
In practice, these probes are operated as towed torpedo-shaped objects connected to a helicopter or to one of the polar research aircraft.
The T-Bird probe uses various sensors to record atmospheric temperatures and air pressures in combination with high-precision GPS position data and makes them available for subsequent scientific analysis.
The EM-Bird uses LF radio signals and precise time-of-flight measurements to record the thickness of ice layers in the polar sea.

What our customers say

The research vessels of the AWI have been equipped with a uniform data acquisition and management system DShip for various years. Our goal was to transfer this to the polar aircraft. In order to adapt to the much higher speed of an aircraft compared to a ship, the system had to become faster by a factor of 1000. Consequently, a pure software solution was no longer an option. The data acquisition part with the high-precision time synchronization had to be transferred to newly developed hardware.

The company S.E.A. understood taking over this part and to manage the necessary adaptation. It is in the nature of things that such prototypes require additional modifications in the manufacturing process outside the specifications made at the beginning. S.E.A. accepted and implemented these in an extremely competent and uncomplicated manner. The entire manufacturing phase was cooperative and friendly. This also applies to the company’s ongoing service. In the meantime, the system has been extended to include additional sensors for the two polar aircraft and a helicopter of the research icebreaker Polarstern has been equipped with the system.

  • Peter Gerchow, Employees WTG Polar Star II ,
  • AWI-Alfred-Wegener Institut
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      If necessary, we develop your project on a blank sheet of paper. This way we make sure that every detail fits the project and every requirement is met.

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      Real-time, time synchronization, RF or RF data acquisition. No matter what challenges you face, our engineers and scientists will rise to any challenge and make your project a success.

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      Hardware, software and all other services come from a single source. If required, we also take care of necessary certifications and approvals.

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