Ewout Hulscher and Oscar Mannens, the TU/e students who carried out research in Antarctica on behalf of Team Polar, have returned home after two weeks with a feeling of satisfaction. The two collected important data that will help them build their ‘Antarctica rover’, a self-designed solar mobile that will make unmanned climate research at the South Pole possible. Student Team Polar hopes to present the first prototype at the end of the summer.
Although the team will be looking at the data in detail, Hulscher says he is satisfied with the first information received. For example, it is clear that the sun’s power is higher than expected, even on cloudy days. “The sun may be extremely low, but the continent is white and therefore 75 to 90 percent of the sunlight reflects. Besides, it is now light 24 hours a day in Antarctica. Driving a solar car at the South Pole is certainly possible, but not an easy task.”
The data collected via a spectrometer and two pyranometers has also been shared with the research community. Mannens adds: “With this data, we can make models to find out how far our vehicle can travel in Antarctica in the future. It is important for the research community to know whether our rover can cover hundreds or thousands of kilometres per season.”
The Antarctic rover will make climate research on the coldest and most remote continent on Earth more sustainable, easier and cheaper. The vehicle will run on built-in solar panels, while sensors will ensure that the vehicle can drive from point A to B without human intervention.
The solar vehicle is comparable to Martian rovers that collect data in a similar way on the planet Mars. To optimise the operation of the team’s Antartic rover, however, it was necessary to carry out research in Antarctica. That is why Mannens and Hulscher recently left for the South Pole for a fortnight.
In the future, the rover can provide important data with regards to climate change with seventeen students from various fields of study helping to build the vehicle. In addition, Dick van der Kroef, director of the Netherlands Polar Programme, thinks that the rover could provide vast amounts of data and information that is not yet available.
Hulscher and Mannens are now back on Dutch soil, feeling good about their adventure in the north of Antarctica and on Le Commandant Charcot, a new polar exploration ship from the French company Ponant that specialises in expeditions to the poles.
Hulscher: “It is a magically beautiful continent. We went to places that you can only reach with a special polar ship. It is a special feeling to dock at places where no one might have set foot before. The penguins sometimes came up to a few metres out of curiosity. And the view was phenomenal, it was fantastic.”