The Australian Antarctic Division will deploy three high-tech, automated weather stations with cameras and satellite communications in remote parts of east Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic.

Dubbed ‘ARTEMIS’ (for Autonomous RemoTe Environment MonItoring System, and in recognition of the Greek goddess of wilderness, nature and wild animals), the units will enhance environmental monitoring in locations remote from Australia’s year-round research stations – including the Larsemann Hills, Bunger Hills and Heard Island.

AAD Polar Technology Manager Lloyd Symons said the units will collect weather data useful for climate research, such as snowfall, wind speed and temperature.

“Along with weather information, ARTEMIS can support the management and use of our remote infrastructure at field sites, to determine if or when they need maintenance,” Mr Symons said.

“The units send back imagery to the AAD headquarters via satellite regularly over summer and can be reprogrammed remotely to adjust the observing schedule as required.”

“Depending on their location, photos and video will also provide important information about local populations of seabirds and other wildlife to support Antarctic environmental monitoring.”

Home grown

ARTEMIS was designed by the AAD’s Technology and Innovation Branch engineers in Hobart, with some manufacturing undertaken in Queensland.

Each unit consists of a 650 kilogram square steel and aluminium frame, with mounts for a roof-top solar panel, and a satellite antenna.

A four metre high mast rises above the frame and houses two cameras, and a weather sensor incorporating ultrasonic wind measurement.

AAD electronics design engineer Mark Milnes said his team has developed ARTEMIS to cope with the extreme conditions of Antarctica.

“The weather sensor measures wind speed and direction by sound, as well as temperature, humidity, precipitation and pressure,” Mr Milnes said.

“Importantly, the sensor has no moving parts, and can withstand minus 52°C temperatures and more than 270 kilometre per hour winds.”

Eyes in Antarctica

Just below the weather sensor is a 25X zoom camera with a 360 degree-view and a second, smaller camera that will move in and out of a protective housing.

“We have two cameras for redundancy, and we’ll likely run them at different times for a few minutes every hour,” Mr Milnes said.

“They will run on a pre-programmed schedule but we’ll be able to adjust their timing and field-of-view from Tasmania, in real time.”

Power is provided by the solar panel in summer, and batteries – similar to car batteries – in winter periods of darkness.

While the collected data and images can be securely stored within the instrument, the aim is to provide almost real-time transfer via satellite to where it’s needed, through the Australian Antarctic Data Centre.

The first ARTEMIS was delivered to Davis station for testing in early 2022, before deployment to the Larsemann Hills later this year. Other units will be deployed in following years.

All installations will be subject to environmental impact assessments, and will be informed by the scientific experts and managers who work together to understand and protect the unique Antarctic and sub-Antarctic environments.