A Secret Agent for Science

A Secret Agent for Science

By Jordan Snyder

I’ve packed my carry-on luggage with two different drone-based imaging cameras and I feel like a spy. But the only thing I plan to spy on are some incredible flow dynamics and oceanographic phenomena in the Bedford Basin.

Drone cameras are safely tucked away in my luggage and the rest of my equipment is shipped off via FedEx!

Three lithium ion battery labels, two separate export control letters, and one hazardous goods letter later, and my aerial drone equipment is finally shipping out to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. It turns out shipping large lithium ion batteries international is not for the faint of heart - I had to reprint and fill out what felt like 100 different forms before I finally got the go-ahead to ship just three days before my flight across the continent.

I am praying that my slightly suspicious shipment crosses the border and gets cleared through customs. There is no reason it shouldn’t go through: I’ve followed all the instructions, but I’ve been told that there is still a chance that someone finds my research equipment shady.

In the meantime, my permit for an Advanced Remotely Piloted Aerial System is still waiting to be cleared by the Canadian Government. In order to fly drones as a foreign pilot, and fly within 3 nautical miles of an aerodrome (or airport), I had to submit a special thirteen page application. If all goes well over the next week, I’ll be an international drone pilot for the purpose of oceanographic research. Pretty cool. The launch points and survey areas I intend to collect data over in the Bedford Basin are pictured below:

Flight plan map for drones operating over the Bedford Basin, Nova Scotia during August and September, 2023.

All the hang-ups, hiccups and challenges of doing international collaborative research can’t stop me from being excited about this opportunity to work with some amazing researchers in the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University. Using cameras on drones we plan to measure the surface expression of complex mixing patterns of seawater at depth. These occur in regions of the Bedford Basin where constrictions in the channel cause shoaling of oxygen-poor, salt-rich waters bottom waters.

Beyond carrying out field work in what I’ve heard to be a beautiful coastal area, I look forward to experiencing the Nova Scotian culture. I’ve got my oyster shucking knife and appetite ready! “Sociable!”

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