Creating Permanent Facilities to Provide Researchers and Stakeholders with High Arctic Operational Support.

A helicopter lowers a swimmer into the Arctic Ocean during a search-and-rescue exercise near Oliktok Pt. The exercise, which involved UASs and multiple participants, took place in the Warning Area under Sandia’s stewardship. (Photo by Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst)

Rapidly changing conditions in the Arctic have increased access to natural resources and maritime routes, enabling more commercial shipping, resource extraction, or an increased security presence. Permafrost melt and coastal erosion impact infrastructure, communities, and ecosystems. Security and environmental issues are exacerbated by the enormity of the region, a lack of infrastructure (including communications and rescue operation capabilities), and scarce monitoring. Evolving Arctic conditions also present significant challenges for scientists and policy makers looking to gain a better understanding of long term consequences. To ensure proper stewardship and security of this critical region, many issues must be addressed in the near future.

Sandia and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) have proposed USHARC, the U.S. High Arctic Research Center to include an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) facility at Oliktok Point, Alaska. The proposed center would partner stakeholders from science, safety, and security to develop comprehensive solutions for Artic challenges. The center would also offer year-round use; logistical support; access to varied ecological settings; and it could support testing for technologies such as autonomous platforms, renewable energies, microgrids, and sensors. The USHARC would utilize existing Sandia and UAF assets and capabilities to serve national needs.

A schematic of the proposed US High Arctic Research Center.

USHARC will provide a multi-disciplinary, year-round High Arctic Center to conduct cooperative scientific research, identify appropriate arctic technologies, and support field tests and exercises. This will enable advances in the development, resilience, preservation, and stewardship of Arctic resources, communities, and environment. Inter-stakeholder collaborations and establishment of an Arctic station network (USHARC, Barrow/Utqiagvik, and Toolik Lake) will advance U.S. knowledge and monitoring of the Arctic to improve environmental stewardship, security, and sustained economic opportunity.

USHARC Facility and Site Assets

USHARC will include:

  • labs for research, testing, and technology development
  • a facility for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and autonomous platform operations
  • staff and researcher lodging
  • operational support
  • spaces for teaching and training

1 km from the Arctic Ocean; with access to the lower 48 States via the northern-most road.

Restricted and Warning Areas provide access to the airspace at Oliktok Point and 700 miles across the Arctic Ocean.

Lab space, logistical and operational support, UAS facilities, lodging, and test equipment.

Space for Arctic stakeholders; e.g. federal agencies, local governments, industry, and universities.

A road from USHARC to the Arctic shore.

On-site support equipment, a UAS hangar, real-time observations, and meteorological data.