loading page

Into the Ice: Exploration and Data-Capturing in Glacial Moulins by a Tethered Robot
  • Max Polzin,
  • Josie Hughes
Max Polzin
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Josie Hughes
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
Author Profile


Glacial moulins (cylindrical meltwater drainage shafts) provide valuable insights into glacier dynamics, but are inaccessible and hazardous environments for humans to study. Exploring using passive sensor probes has revealed the complex geometry of moulins, however, exploration has been limited. To overcome these challenges, we propose a tethered robot capable of autonomously exploring and capturing data in glacial moulins. Our novel robot is equipped with a tether to support its motion. Combined with novel estimation and control algorithms, the tethered robot is able to safely and efficiently maneuver in confined, chimney-like structures such as moulins. Laboratory and field experiments confirm the feasibility of the proposed design, showing successful localization in environments with no access to positional measurements. Field trials on the Mer de Glace glacier demonstrate the robot’s capabilities, descending into the largest moulin to depths of 25m and using onboard sensors to reconstruct the moulin shape. Two sampling mechanisms are presented and evaluated to extract samples from the icy surface of the moulin. Our results show promising potential for future exploration of moulins, demonstrating the effectiveness of our tethered robot for safely gathering data from these hazardous environments.
22 Feb 2023Submitted to Journal of Field Robotics
02 Mar 2023Submission Checks Completed
02 Mar 2023Assigned to Editor
06 Mar 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
04 Apr 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
08 Jul 2023Editorial Decision: Revise Major
18 Aug 20231st Revision Received
18 Aug 2023Submission Checks Completed
18 Aug 2023Assigned to Editor
18 Aug 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
03 Sep 2023Reviewer(s) Assigned
22 Oct 2023Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
08 Nov 20232nd Revision Received
14 Nov 2023Assigned to Editor
14 Nov 2023Submission Checks Completed
14 Nov 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending