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Nome Alaska


After an early November storm formed ice over the Bering Sea, the remote community of Nome Alaska missed its last scheduled fuel delivery before the winter.   The Sitnasuak Native Corp. of Nome  contracted a Russian fuel tanker, Renda, to deliver fuel supplies necessary to sustain the community until the ice melts in Spring.  The US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy escorted the fuel tanker, and broke through more than 300 miles of ice on its journey to Nome.

Event Background


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Media Gallery]

The Aeryon Scout was used by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to assess safety and environmental impact in and around Nome’s harbor ahead of the convoy's arrival. Researchers used aerial images and video from the Scout to determine daily ice conditions including the formation of pressure ridges, potentially dangerous obstacles formed when two ice surfaces push together. These images were used by the research team on the ice, and were sent to the ships as they advanced towards Nome.

Greg Walker, manager at the Geophysical Institute’s Poker Flat Research Range and his team used two Aeryon Scouts on loan from BP Alaska.  The support of the UAF was funded by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by their National Center for Island, Maritime, and Extreme Environment Security.  The unusually harsh storms brought high winds and temperatures below -20℉.

 [The Daily] "Nome's drone" 

Ice map from the Scout

The Scouts operated in Nome under an emergency Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Certificate of Authorization (COA) granted to the University of Alaska Fairbanks by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) - one of only a handful of emergency COAs issued for civilian use.

In addition to providing advance information to the convoy, the Scouts continued to provide detailed imagery and information within the habor while the Renda offloaded its fuel.


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January 16, 2012


The Scout captured new imagery of the Renda and surrounding ice as the ship prepared to unload more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel.


January 15, 2012

Today's unmanned flight operations will involve imaging the work to lay the hose and provide an aerial perspective to the Alaska Dept of Environmental Conservation and the industry team to support their spill response planning/preparations.

New image gallery: Arrival of Tanker Renda and USCGC Healy

January 14, 2012

This update provided by Greg Walker, of the University Alaska Fairbanks, regarding activities of Jan 13:

Ship Status: The CGC Healy spend the daylight hours today breaking the ice outside Nome to prepare to place the tanker outside the harbor.  The two ships may have slipped into final position in the dark.  If they did not we hope to image that today (video).

Unmanned Aircraft Activity:  Continuing to have great success.  Today we had three missions (1) extend the detailed mosaic map of the harbor area out the the potential parking place (at 36 ft depth). (2) support the smoothing of the ice ridges to prep the hose path.  (3) to support the PAO with images of the ships moving and the D17 Commander and the Army Alaska National Guard Commander visit.

1.  Three flights were involved in data collection for the mapping.  Today the maps built to date have become the baseline for others to map their activities (drill holes, trails, etc.)  We have developed a way to map far more area in a flight than before.  Also turned the earlier flights into a 3-D Digital Elevation Map.

2.  Put the head of DEC and the head of Bonanza Oil (Industry) in the cockpit and they guided video based flights around to gain a better understanding of the hose routing.  They later discussed this in detail with the VIP's.

3.  The Healy was only visible on the horizon until after it was too dark to fly.  The PAO support did not happen as hoped.

Saturday will be devoted to (1) Ice observations to see what effect the ships have had on the outer harbor ice (2) PAO flights, and (3) hose route planning and documentation.

The FAA have extended the Emergency COA.

January 13, 2012

The UAF research team has reported that the lights of the ships are now visible in the distance as they make their final approach to the harbor.  In order to prepare for the Renda entering the harbor and docking, the researchers are mapping the interior of the harbor.  

We have updated the image orthomosaic in Google Maps below to show new areas mapped within the harbor.  You can also see a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) image showing terrain elevation measured in metres.

Wind speeds in the last few days have topped 40mph but the Scout flights are continuing successfully. 


nome flight path
The Scout's Flight Path
[click to enlarge]

Thursday January 12, 2012

Final preparations are being made for the expected arrival of the Russian fuel tanker Renda, and its escort, US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy.  After a two-day delay in the Bering Sea, the two ships are again advancing towards Nome.  Officials are hoping the ships, carrying over a million gallons of fuel, will arrive in Nome this weekend.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks team are making on average six flights per day to monitor the immediate area around the entry point to Nome's harbor.  You can see several images of the Scout on the ground with the UAF team in the image gallery, and check out the image orthomosaic generated from georeference tags embedded in images taken from the Scout while executing its automated flight path.  

January 12, 2012: Aeryon Scout Helps Guide Russian Tanker Renda into Nome Alaska


Tuesday January 10, 2012

Fairbanks Daily News: UAF researchers use drones to evaluate sea ice thickness at Nome and aid incoming tanker

Google Maps Imagery [View Fullscreen]

Below is imagery of the ice near the Nome causeway taken by the team of researchers from UAF on January 10, 2012. This imagery was collected using Aeryon Scout UAVs flying at altitudes up to 400 feet.

View Fullscreen. Switch from Satellite to Map view to access higher zoom levels for the above imagery,
Othorectification courtesy of Pix4D. Images courtesy of University Alaska Fairbanks

Other Sites


The US Coast Guard provides information and photos from the Healy on their Renda/Nome Fuel Delivery site.




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