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AWI polar research aircraft fleet and associated infrastructures

AWI operates two research aircraft, the Polar 5 and Polar 6 (Figure 5), which are largely identical:


Basler BT-67 (DC-3T)

Aircraft Registrations




Cruise Speed

100 m/s (200 kts, wheel gear only)

Survey Speed

72m/s (140 kts)


2 Pilots

Mission scientists (max)


Fuel Consumption (planning)


Max Take Off weight

13600 kg (30,000lb)

Survey power available

550A (28V)

Figure 5 - Polar 5 and Polar 6, the two polar research aircrafts operated by AWI

The personnel involved

  • Crew: 2 pilots and 1 mechanic

  • Science support during surveys on site: 2 engineers/technicians

  • Science support for integration of new instruments by team of several engineers

  • Operator on board during survey flights: max. 6

  • PAX on board for transit flights: max. 18

The scientific equipment available on board (AWI owned and external instruments)

  • Data acquisition system ADA (central data storage and time reference for stand-alone systems)

  • laser scanner/altimeter: Riegl VQ-580, Riegl LMS-Q680i, Riegl LD90, Astech LDM301

  • ice penetrating radar systems: ice thickness radar, accumulation radar, snow thickness radar, ultra-wideband depth sounder (24 channel system), microwave ultra-wideband snow radar

  • magnetometer: Scintrex CS-3

  • Gravity meter: ZLS, GT-2a

  • GPS: Novatel, Javad

  • Cameras: Canon SLR, video, GoPro

  • Hyper spectral camera: Specim AISA Eagle

  • Hygrometer CR2

  • Licor 7200 humidity sensor

  • Nezerov probe

  • Thermeter: PT100

  • Radiation thermometer KT19

  • 5-hole probe with absolute and relative humidity, AIMMS20, AIMMS30

  • Aerosol lidar AMALI

  • Methane sensor Los Gatos RMT200

  • Radiation sensors: Ocean optics  (long & short wave) Kipp&Zonen pyranometer & pygeometer

  • Single particle photometer SP2

  • Ultra high sensitivity aerosol spectrometer

  • Sun photometer

  • Drop-sonde launch system AVAPS lite

  • PMS cannisters

  • EM bird (for mapping sea-ice thickness)

  • ALABAMA (MPI Mainz-owned aerosol mass spectrometer)

  • ASIRAS (ESA-owned radar altimeter)

  • EMIRAD-2 (DTU-Copenhagen owned polarmetric radiometer)

The type of science supported

Monitoring and recording interactions between the Earth’s crust, ice- and snow-covered areas, oceans, and the atmosphere:

  • Mapping of the Earth’s magnetic and gravity field for tectonic studies

  • Mapping of ice thickness and internal structures of ice shelves, ice sheets, and glaciers for mass balance studies, input and reference data sets for ice dynamic modelling studies

  • Mapping of sea ice thickness, snow thickness on sea ice, and surface morphology/altimetry for calibraction and validation of satellite derived remote sensing data

  • Measuring in-situ and remotely of aerosols and trace gases for process studies and input and reference data sets for modelling studies

  • Measuring of radiation, temperatures, humidity, and turbulent fluxes for process studies and input and reference data sets for modelling studies of the planetary boundary layer

  • Optical remote sensing for mapping biodiversity in the Wadden Sea and land cover disturbances related to permafrost thaw

  • Besides scientific operations, the aircrafts are maintaining logistics between different international research stations in the Antarctic, where the AWI is an active member of the international Dronning Maud Land Air Network (DROMLAN).

The AWI strategy in terms of aircraft in polar regions in the next decade

As in the past, in the forthcoming years AWI aircraft will be operating in Antarctica, as well as in the Arctic in each season. The aircraft will be used for scientific expeditions and for logistic tasks in order to support science. The home base of the aircraft is Bremen Airport. The available instrument suite is constantly expanded to meet the requirements by the science community.