FlyToDiscover for the third time in the Arctic with GREAL 

Yesterday UAV technical service provider FlyToDiscover delivered to GREAL, after the usual pre-departure preparations, the drone equipment that the laboratory will use during Polarquest2021, in the Arctic, these July and August.

The cooperation between the Italian company, based in Rome and led by Sandro Russello, and GREAL, has a long story and saw already joint work in the Arctic in 2018 (Svalbard) and 2020 (Greenland). The 2021 works plan draws from those previous experiences.

The drone prepared by FTD for use by GREAL is a customized version of the Phantom 4 Pro modified to effectively carry additional payload consisting in sensors. Furthermore, the drone can fly under tether in particular conditions, in order to prevent accidental fly-aways which can affect those machines in the specific research location. Although not designed for use in the Arctic, the popular drone proved an otherwise excellent survey machine in the workgroup’s previous research activities, provided that appropriate precautions are taken for its effective operation. 

The currently planned observation programme includes the collection of aerophotogrammetric data on some relevant sites as well as surveys with sensors for thermal and near infrared imagery.  

Sandro Russello (FlyToDiscover, on the left) and Gianluca Casagrande (GREAL)

Drone Phantom 4 Pro

Polarquest 2018 (image by Alwin Courcy)

Phantom 4 with additional NIR camera (image by G. Casagrande)

GREAL returns to the Arctic with Polarquest2021

Two years after its first operational participation to a research activity in the Svalbard islands, and with the data from a second expedition in Greenland still under analysis, GREAL will be back to the Arctic in a few weeks. In the new programme, GREAL will be involved in expedition Polarquest2021, onboard S/Y Best Explorer under Arctic skipper Giovanni Acquarone.

Like in 2018, the project will be led by scientific communicator Paola Catapano (CERN, Geneva) head of a 9-people international workgroup including researchers, technicians and communication experts. Best Explorer is an Italian-built 51-foot sail-yacht that completely circumnavigated the Arctic Ocean between 2012 and 2019 and conducted scientific work on behalf of ENEA. She will depart her homebase in Tromsø, northern continental Norway, on July 15th, and will reach Longyearbyen, Svalbard Islands, on the 24th. After a brief stop-over, the quite dense research activity programmes will begin, along the western and northern coasts of the archipelago.

The main goals of the expedition include a sonar mapping of the seafloor (conducted by the University of Gdansk, the European University of Rome and NORBIT Subsea), off the coasts of Nordaustlandet, the second largest of the Svalbard islands, whose eastern shores are entirely covered with ice from the Austfonna glacier.

Other research programmes onboard will call for microbiological analysis led by the Swiss Polar Institute, detection of gas bubbles in the “water column” (University of Geneva and ISMAR-CNR), observation of the general environmental status and mapping of macroplastic litter in remote areas by the use of flying drones (European University of Rome, Italian Geographical Society, University of Gdansk).

The international crew who will take part in the expedition includes:

Giovanni “Nanni” Acquarone (skipper, expedition leader, Italy), Nicoletta Martini (co-skipper, Italy), Paola Catapano (project leader, scientific communicator, Italy), Michael Struik (technical coordinator, drone pilot, video/photographer, The Netherlands), Gianluca Casagrande (scientific coordinator, onboard scientist, Italy), Christel Hassler (onboard scientist, Switzerland), Kevin Monneron (diver, onboard scientist, France), Dominik Pałgan (onboard scientist, Poland), Elias Christoph Meier (student, Austria). The go-crew will be assisted by a shore-team coordinated by Best Explorer veteran, Italian sailor Salvatore Magri.

Best Explorer is expected to return to Longyearbyen by August 22nd. At that time, the laboratories in the expedition’s network will commence analysis of the expedition data, a process which will take several months. Meanwhile, as in 2018, images and footage from the expedition will be used to prepare documentary materials for public dissemination of the expedition and its scientific results.

Polarquest2021 will develop in some of the areas which saw, in 1928, the ordeal of airship ITALIA, disappeared with six crew-members during its return from the North Pole. During this summer activity, while scanning the sea-floor with a multibeam sonar provided by Norwegian manufacturer NORBIT Subsea, the crew will pay attention to the possible presence, in the area, of any trace that could be linked to the lost expedition.

Polarquest2021 continues the conceptual line developed by Polarquest2018 and NANUQ2020, developing research and communication about the Arctic with the use of “lightweight” and “low-environmental impact” solutions. The formula proved scientifically valuable in the past experiences and can effectively complement other more traditional research techniques.


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Best-Explorer during a previous Arctic journey. The boat is registered in Genoa and features an all-steel hull. She is also equipped with a 80 Hp diesel engine. Picture by Stefano De Luigi.


Webinar: The NORGE: an airship towards the North Pole

On April 30th, a Webinar will focus on the technological aspects of airship NORGE’s transpolar flight. The event will take place in the framework of the Shadow of Norge project.


Associazione Dirigibili Archimede, in cooperation with GREAL, explores the technical aspects of NORGE’s exploration, and reflects on present-day perspectives on the use of LTA crafts.


Here is the poster of the event, scheduled at 5.30 pm on April 30, 2021.

To participate, click on this link

Webinar “Technologies and Museums for story-telling of places and exploration” in the “Shadow of Norge” project

The Shadow of Norge project successfully continues its international meetings program.


In the webinar “Technologies and Museums for story-telling of places and exploration” the focus is on the theme of technologies supporting the enhancement and spreading of knowledge about historical places, travel and exploration.



Here is the flyer of the event, scheduled at 9 am on April 27th, 2021.


To participate, click on this link.

WEBINAR at the University of Bodø on the 95th Anniversary of the NORGE expedition

The NORD University of Bodø (Norway) will host a scientific Webinar, open to the general public, on April 15th to remember the 95th anniversary of the expedition of airship NORGE.

The event will be chaired by Prof. Steinar Aas, Associate Professor of Contemporary History, and will see the participation of Norwegian and Italian scholars and institutional representatives.

The Webinar takes place almost exactly 95 years after the stop-over of airship NORGE in Ekeberg (Oslo), on its way to the Amundsen-Ellsworth-Nobile transpolar expedition.

The initiative has GREAL as official scientific partner and is developed within the “95 YEARS AGO: THE NORGE” international commemoration initative. 


Official programme at the following link:

Webinar: Flying towards the Great North through countries and cultures

09:00 Welcome – by professor Steinar Aas, Nord university. 09:15 – 10:00 «From dragons, via airplanes, to airships: Roald Amundsen and the aeronautics, 1909-1926”, by professor em.

“Custodians of the Memory” – First Webinar in “Shadow of Norge” project

The first international Webinar of the “Shadow of Norge” initiative was held on April 8th, opening the commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the Amundsen-Ellsworth-Nobile Transpolar Flight (1926).

The event was institutionally hosted by the Museo Umberto Nobile of Lauro, hometown to the Italian explorer and was chaired by the Museum’s director, Antonio Ventre.

The event was focused on family memories and historical places variously related to the 1926 expedition, e.g. the Oslo-Ekeberg stop-over place, the Ny-Ålesund advanced base in the Svalbard Islands, the historical life-places of the two leaders of the expedition, like Amundsen’s home in Uranienborg and places where Umberto Nobile lived, worked and paid visits in Rome, Lauro and Eboli.

Another theme explored by some of the speeches during the Webinar was the legacy left by the 1926 expedition, almost a century after its development, on both the education of future generations and the cultural relationships and bonds between Italy, Norway, and Russia.

The Webinar, whose programme can be downloaded here, was recorded and can be fully watched on the ShadowOfNorge youtube channel.

The ShadowOfNorge
The ShadowOfNorge

Shadow Of Norge: Webinars and Cultural Encounters

Kick-off for the “Shadow Of Norge project“, born within the GREAL Laboratory: a series of International Webinars and Cultural Meetings that will celebrate the 95th anniversary of the Amundsen-Ellsworth-Nobile expedition (1926-2021)


Researchers  scholars and institutional representatives, coordinated by GREAL and other partner institutions, will present their contributions to offer a reconstruction and comments on several different aspects of the NORGE expedition


This cycle of events, organized with the aim of creating an international and interdisciplinary commemoration, will begin on April 8, 2021 and end on May 14, the day when the Norge completed the first transpolar flight in history, landing in Teller, a village in Alaska.


In the program you can find the calendar of each event, with further information and links to participate online!



Download the Program: Shadow Of Norge webinar program and cultural events

A virtual reconstruction of airship NORGE (1926-2021)

On April 10th, 1926, airship NORGE departed Rome, marking the beginning of the Amundsen-Ellsworth-Nobile expedition. A crucial voyage: for the first time in history a transpolar flight from Europe to America was achieved. 

Waiting to celebrate the 95th anniversary of this expedition, GREAL Laboratory (, under the technical and graphic-design responsibility of dr. Roberta Rodelli and the scientific direction of prof. Gianluca Casagrande, brought the project “Shadow of NORGE” to life, in order to virtually retrace the famous journey. 

The laboratory started working on the creation of a 3D model of the airship. The digital reconstruction is mostly based on original drawings by Umberto Nobile (designer and commander of NORGE), along with photos and films from that time. The general aim is to create a virtual copy, as much as possible similar to the real airship in appearance and dimensions.  

The project is part of a series of activities and events that will celebrate the anniversary of this absolute first, with a little touch of magic obtained by the use of innovative technologies, possibly appealing to a wider audience. 

Click here for the 3D model of the airship.

GREAL Seminar: Advanced tecniques for “image-based-modelling” virtualization of cultural heritage

The seminar will be given on December 7th 2020 by archaeologist Dr. Emiliano Tondi, a specialist in technologies for research and communication of cultural heritage.

The event will take place online through the Microsoft Teams channel of the Undergraduate program in Geography for Sustainable Tourism, and will include a methodological introduction and an excercise.

The seminar will be held in Italian language and is specifically offered to UER Students. 


The Polarquest2018 Arctic Expedition: An Open Access geographical report

Between July 22nd and September 4th 2018, an international Arctic research and communication expedition called «Polarquest2018» was conducted on board the eco-sustainable sail-yacht NANUQ .

The 17.8-meter sailboat cruised for a total of 3,564 nautical miles2 most of which north of the Arctic Circle (including two transfers and one operation leg). The crew, consisting generally of ten members, carried out a series of activities and observations in the framework of three research programmes.

The expedition was organized by Association Polarquest2018 (Switzerland) in partnership with Association Acapela and with scientific, technical and cultural entities from France, Switzerland, Italy and Norway3 . Funding was provided by institutional and private sponsors.

The project was highly interdisciplinary in nature. It consisted in navigating an experimental, environment-friendly floating laboratory through an Oceanic route, beyond the Arctic Circle and around Svalbard. During this travel, many activities involved scientific research, communication and storytelling.

This book is the third in the «Geografia a libero accesso» series, that the Italian Geographical Society has created to host its digital publications. The purpose of the editorial initiative is to make works by the Society’s members easier to access and circulate, so that results from studies and research activities may be freely disseminated. We hope that our fellows and the wide audience in the Web will appreciate this effort. Gianluca Casagrande’s book further extends the accessibility beyond the Italian-speaking context: a necessary choice, since it has an international endeavor as its topic and will have international readers as a significant share of its audience.