A small Nasa aircraft has completed the first in a series of expeditions to study receding Arctic sea ice.

The science aircraft is a part of Nasa’s characterisation of Arctic sea ice experiment (CASIE) that has begun a series of unmanned aircraft system flights to study the lifecycle and long-term stability of the Arctic ice cover.

The science instrumentation evaluation remote research aircraft (SIERRA) will fly over sea ice to map and measure ice conditions from 300ft above ground level.

The SIERRA has high manoeuvrability, slow flight speed and travels long distances at low altitudes carrying scientific instruments weighing about 100lb up to a range of 500 miles.