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NorthROV - Design, Build and Test of a Robot for 3D-Mapping of Icebergs Underwater.

Contact Information:

Country: Denmark

Year Submitted: 2018

University: Aarhus University


List of Team Members (with year of graduation):

Robert Søndergaard, (2018).

Kristian Klitgaard Sahlholdt, (2018).

Johan Thoft Krogshave, (2018).


Faculty Advisers:

Claus Melvad


Main Contact Email Address:

Project Information:

Title: NorthROV - Design, Build and Test of a Robot for 3D-Mapping of Icebergs Underwater.

Description:    This goal of this multidisciplinary project is to conceive, design, build and operate a Labview based underwater robot for 3D mapping of the underwater part of icebergs in an extreme climate.



NI LabVIEW 2016, NI LabVIEW roboRIO 2016, NI LabVIEW 2016 MathScript RT Module, NI LabVIEW Real-Time Module, NI LabVIEW 2016 roboRIO Toolkit, NI Vision 2016, NI-IMAQ




Xbox one controller, 8 x Bluerobotics T200, Blue robotics SOS leak sensor, Vectornav vn100 SMD, LCM1500N Powersupply, Plitsch blueglobe, 2 x Mikro Tik Cloud Router switch, 2 x SFP+, Armed fiber cable, Wire, 2 x Point grey camera, Tamron M23FM06 Lens, Fisheye lens, Hitec HS-311 and lots of milled, lasercut and 3D printed parts.



This project aims with one goal to relieve multiple future disaster scenarios related to climate change in a collaboration between Engineers and the Arctic research center of Denmark. Melting icebergs are the symbol of global warming that everyone can relate to, but icebergs are for most citizens too far away to relate to. Most people never get to experience the enormity that is an iceberg, and those few that do, only see the top 10% above water. Therefore a quite big iceberg, as seen below, does not seem the big when only seen from the top. This has led to many false assumptions regarding icebergs, which can have devastating consequences.


Iceberg at the icefjord at Ilulissat. The lights in the water in the left bottom of the picture is the ROV.Iceberg at the icefjord at Ilulissat. The lights in the water in the left bottom of the picture is the ROV.

 To name a few such disasters:

  1. Huge icebergs with a heading towards an oilrig can have unimaginable consequences for the environment in case of a collision. Ships are sent out days in advance to change the route of such icebergs, the size of entire cities. A underestimation can lead to the ship being sent out too late, underwater current estimations being too far off and effectively a collision.
  2. Icebergs melt much faster under water than in air, which in hot weather can lead to an imbalance forcing a huge iceberg to roll over. A rolling iceberg like this can devastate close by ships, and in the cold arctic waters, hypothermal death happens within minutes in the water. Current guidelines for safety distance to icebergs are based on a trapezoidal form, which hugely underestimates the natural forms of icebergs.
  3. Icebergs have a huge impact on the food chain and CO2 absorption of the polar oceans. Rolling icebergs mix the lower and upper waters, leading to an increase in CO2 absorption and algae growth. Models predicting climate change try to take this into account, with assumptions on icebergs trying to predict CO2 quotas.


A common theme in these disaster senarios is estimation of volume in icebergs. By measuring the true form and combining with satellite data; new and better models can be developed to keep the environment safe, with ships sent out in the right time, with correct guidelines to maneuver safely around icebergs and with more accurately predicted CO2 quotas.


Another problem is that Politicians cannot relate to melting glaciers and melting icebergs they have never seen. Still, they are making all the decisions. So, we aim to create content that can give a closer view on these enormous giants.


The Challenge:

The environment around an iceberg is very harsh with water temperatures under 0°C and difference in melting speed causes the icebergs to roll over. This makes it very dangerous and challenging to collect data. There will also be a list of features that have not been implemented before, together, on a ROV and therefore a ROV will be designed, constructed and build for this purpose. One of the main reasons it is interesting to look at this project, is that no ROV can be bought to handle the environment and solve the tasks at hand.

There is a lot of requirements for a ROV which task is to 3D scan an iceberg, both to the ROV itself and the user interface. The mechanical requirements are the pressure, temperature and LARS (Launch and Recovery System). The user interface requirements are the user friendliness, easy to debug, fast to setup and easy integrate more sensors into the program (Scalable).


We solve more problems:

  1. Investigating the microclimate and ecosystem in the water, around and under the iceberg.
  2. Investigating the melt plume around the iceberg.
  3. Figure out the geometry of an iceberg and if its volume
  4. Make video material to make it easy for everyone to understand and see the size of an iceberg and the reality of the melt rates as the consequence of global warming.

The Solution:

The solution was to build a LabVIEW empowered underwater ROV(Remotely operated Vehicle) with the capability to 3D scan an iceberg using the NI RoboRIO. The placement of the RoboRIO in the robot is shown on the image:

The ROV under construction. Here the brain, the roboRIO, can be seen in the middel.The ROV under construction. Here the brain, the roboRIO, can be seen in the middel.

The ROV is mounted with two cameras that can be adjusted from a 0 to 90-degree angle so that it is possible to take pictures of all the iceberg, even the bottom. It is powered with 230 V AC which is converted by the built-in power supply. Control signals, huge amounts of data and 2000 W of power are transmitted to the ROV through a 100 meter power cable and 10 GBit fiber optic cable.

The ROV is controlled by Robert, which is seen in the picture:Our pilot, Robert, controlling the ROV with an Xbox controller and a GUI on two different computers, showing data and pictures for the ROV.Our pilot, Robert, controlling the ROV with an Xbox controller and a GUI on two different computers, showing data and pictures for the ROV.


Our pilot is sitting on the boat with the LabVIEW program on a laptop, where the GUI (Graphical User Interface) is showed, and an Xbox controller for input. The GUI contain a live feed video and info about depth, temperature, outputs to thrusters and other data. LabVIEW work with both a blockdiagram (The code) and a frontpanel, and the frontpanel from the main VI was the GUI for controlling the ROV. It was easy to create a user friendly GUI by using LabVIEW, compared to the amount of work that should have been put into other languages like C. Another benefit with using LabVIEW is the easy implementation of the cameras and showing the feeds to the user through the GUI. With MAX and NI Vision the development time is reduced significantly. By using roboRIO with LabVIEW a lot of the groundwork have already been made. The roboRIO module have many tools that help reducing developing time. Without the NI LabVIEW modules it would not have been possible to finish the project on time. 


The 3D-Mapping task uses photogrammetry.

The user moves the ROV into position to take pictures of the iceberg. The goal is to take pictures of the whole iceberg and all the pictures must have an overlap of at least 50% to each other. It is the possible to put these pictures together to make a 3D model of the iceberg underwater.


There was mounted a CTD sensor on the ROV which took measurements through the trip around the Iceberg. The CTD was used the get information about salinity, temperature and depth and this information is then used for creating a better understanding of the Icebergs invironment.


To create awareness for people who have never seen an iceberg before the ROV was mounted with a 360-camera witch records video that can gives the viewer a previously unprecedented immersive experience. This also gives the capabilities to show the World the reality of the climate changes closely, as will be able to see the iceberg melting in realtime. This video will during the summer of 2018 be used in several campaigns in Denmark for political awareness towards the rapid climate change



The successful trip to Greenland proved that the platform works and already during its maiden voyage in polar waters collected several hundred gigabytes of data and a scale 3D model of an iceberg was created. The experiences gathered are promising and the hope is to go back august 2018 to collect data for a couple of full models.

To give a bit of insight in how it looks underneath:

Picture of the ROV and an Iceberg from 360 video captured during a field test at GreenlandPicture of the ROV and an Iceberg from 360 video captured during a field test at Greenland


Furthermore some 360 videos was recorded on Greenland and put together into this video where it is possible to get up close to an iceberg. With this we hope to give a lot of people a better view on the impact of environmental change, through a closer relation to Arctic’s.


Benefits of the NI platform

The benefits from using LabVIEW and NI tools was that it made this project possible within the time limit. The programming is intuitive and it is quickly possible to get a lot of different sensors inputs and get these to interact in a relative complex way without having to make every piece of code from the bottom.Here the GUI from the controlling pc is seen. GUI lets the pilot get all the important information.Here the GUI from the controlling pc is seen. GUI lets the pilot get all the important information. The NI tools and modules used in this project help decrease the developing time. The roboRIO module facilitates fast implementation and communication with different sensors, actuators and other connected parts. The NI-IMAQ help fast implementation of cameras and the mathscript toolkit helped with fast development of the algorithm to control the ROV.

On the following figures the LabVIEW code is seen: LabVIEW from Main VI on PC1 and  LabVIEW from Main VI on roboRIO target:LabVIEW from Main VI on PC1.LabVIEW from Main VI on PC1.

 LabVIEW from Main VI on roboRIO target.LabVIEW from Main VI on roboRIO target.

 Lastly we would like to thank NI for sponsoring the project with a roboRIO.




Timeline and level of completion

The time line was from September to December 2017 with a trip to Greenland medio November. The construction time was therefore from September to start November, which lead to almost all days being long, but fun days in the office.

The robot is a fully functional prototype


Further work

The collection of data from the iceberg could be optimized with live tracking of the collected data so it would be possible to make sure that every area of the iceberg is covered. This could also help insure the quality of all areas of the iceberg.
To complete this a positioning system would be needed together with an algorithm to estimate the quality of each picture taken.


Link to Video

Here is our presentation video: