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UAV finds WWII plane under Greenland ice

October 1, 2018  - By

A team deployed ground-penetrating radar mounted on drones, showing that the technology can search and locate targets buried deep in glacial ice.

On July 15, 1942, six P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft and two B-17 Flying Fortress bombers encountered a blizzard while supporting the Allied war effort in the British Isles.

The aircraft were forced to conduct an emergency landing on the glaciers of Greenland, and though all the crew members were rescued nine days later, the aircraft were left behind.

After using radar to find areas of interest in 2011, an expedition led by the non-profit Arctic Hot Point Solutions returned to Greenland.

Ground-penetrating radar was integrated with a drone for the survey mission in Greenland. (Photo: Arctic Hotpoint Solutions)

Ground-penetrating radar was integrated with a drone for the survey mission in Greenland. (Photo: Arctic Hotpoint Solutions)

This time, the team deployed ground-penetrating radar mounted on drones, and showed that the technology can search and locate targets buried deep in glacial ice. Aerial surveying was more effective and less risky than working on the ice.

The team extracted hydraulic fluid from 340 feet below the surface, leading to the identification of the buried aircraft as the P-38 Echo piloted by Robert Wilson.

Six undiscovered aircraft — also part of the “Lost Squadron” — remain entombed in shifting glaciers, along with many additional WWII aircraft that went down over of Greenland as they flew between the United States and the European theater.

A future expedition will attempt to excavate Echo, and locate other aircraft of the Lost Squadron.

About the Author:


Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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