Smart Ice Protection System for Emergency and Rescue Service UAVs


2024 – 2026, TakeOff 2021, FFG/BMK

Project Description

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in multirotor configuration are utilized in a variety of applications nowadays. Compared to manned aircraft they are relatively easy to deploy and their ability to take-off and land vertically enables very flexible operation independent of any ground infrastructure. In recent years, Authorities and organizations with security tasks (BOS) have introduced multirotor UAVs into their daily operations to improve their overall capabilities and as an alternative to helicopter-based operations. The multirotor UAVs can be quickly deployed directly in the field and offer cost savings against helicopter operations. In addition, less noise is emitted and as the utilized UAVs are electrically powered the environmental footprint is reduced. The BOS require UAVs which are capable to operate all-year round to be a feasible technical instrument for daily operations. However, one showstopper during cold weather periods is the risk of in-flight icing, which represents a safety issue and operational barrier. Research results indicate that icing can negatively impact the performance and lead to safety critical situations and a potential loss of the vehicle, within a very short time if no countermeasures are taken. Hence, the respective UAV needs to be equipped with an efficient and lightweight ice protection system to detect and prevent/remove any ice accretion before this critical situation arises. Yet no sophisticated commercially available ice protection system for small multirotor UAVs exists at the moment.

Main Objectives

IceDrone aims to develop viable technical solutions to overcome these limitations by combining the expertise of its interdisciplinary consortium. Thereby it acts as an enabler for safe cold weather operation of multirotor UAVs for the Austrian BOS. The scope of the project is divided into three top level objectives. The first is the development of an innovative UAV propeller with an integrated and self-sustaining ice detector. The propellers are the main source of thrust, respectively lift, and are very susceptible to ice accretion because of the higher impingement rate of super-cooled droplets on the rotating blades. A fast and reliable ice detection is required so that the UAV can still react in time.  The second main objective is the development of a novel energy efficient chemical ice protection system for anti-/de-icing of multirotor UAVs to enable safe operation under adverse icing conditions in accordance with regulatory and certification requirements. The third main objective of IceDrone is to investigate the performance of safety relevant and mission critical sensors and payload under adverse icing conditions.


To achieve these objectives, new experimental results and scientific findings, especially from the FFG/BMK funded research project All-weather Drone are leveraged. The national aviation authority is involved and contributes its expertise in the field of drone regulation. In addition, the associated partners from the Austrian BOS will be consulted and provide feedback to the IceDrone consortium.


As such, IceDrone is a unique and innovative project. It supports Austria's leading role in the aircraft icing sector and exploits previous R&D work. The technological developments primarily address the needs of the Austrian BOS and aim to provide them the capability to operate safely in icing weather conditions. The technologies represent a novelty for the entire UAV sector and have the potential to disrupt the market. To maximize the scientific impact and visibility of the project, appropriate dissemination measures are taken.

Project Partners


Project IceDrone has received funding from the Federal Ministry of Austria for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) as part of the Austrian Aeronautics Programme TAKE OFF via the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).