Iceberg Tagging in Greenland Enables International Maritime Situational Awareness

Thanks to international collaboration, science and technology, ships operating in any of the world’s oceans containing icebergs will now have valuable data on iceberg drift and decay. A recent activity was executed with participants from Denmark, Canada and the United States using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to deploy GPS tags onto icebergs near Disko Bay, Greenland. This effort will improve understanding of ocean circulation and meteorological impacts on icebergs—key variables to ensuring maritime situational awareness.

This unprecedented international effort was performed under the International Cooperative Engagement Program for Polar Research (ICE-PPR), a 25-year memorandum of understanding to promote coordination and collaboration between polar nations.

The Danish Navy vessel Ejnar Mikkelsen (P-571) was tasked by the Danish Joint Arctic Command for 10 days of scientific support in the waters of west Greenland. The science team was led by the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global and its International Engagement Office, receiving active support by the Universities of Washington, Colorado, Maryland and Kansas.

The team developed specialized tags and modified off-the-shelf components to report and collect GPS positions of tagged icebergs via satellite communication constellations. The delivery vehicles were remotely operated by hexa- and octo-copters capable of carrying and deploying payloads up to 10 lb. The shipboard team consisted of five U.S. nationals and one Danish expert from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

Data provided by the shipboard team will deliver valuable insights for improving the accuracy of iceberg drift and decay models. The data set will increase the maritime situational awareness for all ships operating in any of the world’s oceans that contain icebergs, both North and South.

Real-time data are available at:


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