Thursday, August 18, 2011

Yeti's Next Phase: Autonomous Crevasse Detection

As 2011 closes, Yeti has made some serious improvements in both his behavior and abilities. Our exiting hero, Suk Joon is off to serve his two years in the military. We're not sure where Tom is, but we hope to see him soon, and thank him for all his work on Yeti for his thesis. Danny Dumond has also woefully departed, leaving the last remnants of terrain classification and Yeti for some other at some other time. Danny has successfully started a position at Aptima, a government defense contractor. She will be doing research and apparently lots of proposal and grant writing. Good thing Dr. Ray isn't there to correct your papers! (just joking, my humblest apologies, it's all in good fun). Good luck, our Departed Danny Dumond!

And now, I suppose, our dear Yeti and I are left to bond, hopefully without too much struggle. Yeti's next phase is now my task and thesis: A Robotic system for automatic crevasse detection using ground penetrating radar. Yeas or nays on that as the be-all end-all title of said thesis?

Yeti's newest capabilities include more complex search designs (rosettes and grids), real-time interface with the ground penetrating radar, a SIR-30 from Geophysical Survey Systems. And last but not least, the pièce de résistance, real-time classification of GPR scans for detecting buried crevasses. Of course, a huge thank you to GSSI for their enthusiastic and generous help. They supply us with Ground Penetrating Radars that Yeti tows on his backside. Here's a simplified diagram of his new get-up.

Some sadder news: currently the US is at a stand-still in terms of its government-funded research and logistics in Antarctica. This is because the US Antarctic Program (USAP) does not actually own a functioning ice-breaker. We've been using kind Sweeden's, but this year they need them all for various reasons, and the US is up an ice stream without an ice-breaker, literally, pun intended, etc. What other frozen countries up there might be able to lend us a hand? Ah yes, privyet Russiya. We have asked to borrow just a teensy one, since they have so many and all, but there's a bit of a problem. It seems that the Antarctic Treaty does not allow nuclear weapons in the South Pole, and does not particularly expire. And of course, you guessed it, Russia's ice-breakers have nukes on them. Sigh. The upshot of all that is, that those high up above are trying to come to some sort of agreement on the unfortunate mess. Here's the link to the New York Times article.

This problem is especially disconcerting to Yeti, because he is currently being funded by stealthily signing himself up for Heavy Traverses across Greenland and Antarctica funded by the USAP and the US Office of Polar Programs (OPP). But, he maintains a positive attitude, and I look forward to his training and development! Next I'll try to post a movie of the crevasse classification system I've developed! So far, I've gotten up to 92% accuracy with Support Vector Machine and Logistic Regression models trained on actual crevasse GPR data from Antarctica and Greenland.


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