Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Aaron Drake

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


Currently, the South Pole has a large data problem. It is estimated that 1.2 TB of data is being produced every day, but less than 500 GB of that data is being uploaded via aging satellites to researchers in other parts of the world. This requires those at the South Pole to analyze the data and carefully select the parts to send, possibly missing out on vital scientific information. The South Pole Carrier Pigeon will look to bridge this data gap.

The Carrier Pigeon will be a small unmanned aerial vehicle that will carry a 30 TB solid-state hard drive from the South Pole to various destinations in the Southern Hemisphere, but it has been designed to y to Christchurch, New Zealand. This 87 lb. UAV will be able to y 3,650 nmi. up to 25,000 ft., using a 5.7 hp. engine. It will feature an de-icing system on the leading edge of its 8 ft. span wing to allow it to y through cold, moist climates. It will have a 39 in. long fuselage with a tail boom of 33 in.

The aircraft has been designed to be made out of composites, thus reducing both the weight of the aircraft as well as its drag. It has been designed to come apart in order to be shipped successfully to the South Pole. There, it will be assembled and launched via a custom pneumatic launcher. It will y autonomously to 15,000 ft. and cruise climb throughout the flight to 25,000 ft., before descending to its destination. There, it will be caught by a net restraint system, where the hard drive will be extracted. The Carrier Pigeon is truly a unique vehicle for its size, range, and robustness.