Summary: Future development of the PLATO observatory
for Antarctic science
Michael C. B. Ashley*a, Colin S. Bonnera, Jon R. Everetta, Jon S. Lawrenceb,c,
Daniel Luong-vana, Scott McDaida, Campbell McLarena and John W. V. Storeya
aSchool of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia bDepartment
of Physics and Astronomy, Macquarie University, Sydney NSW 2109, Australia;
cAustralian Astronomical Observatory, Sydney NSW 1710, Australia;
PLATO is a self-contained robotic observatory built into two 10-foot shipping containers. It has been successfully
deployed at Dome A on the Antarctic plateau since January 2008, and has accumulated over 730 days of
uptime at the time of writing. PLATO provides 0.51 kW of continuous electrical power for a year from diesel
engines running on Jet-A1, supplemented during the summertime with solar panels. One of the 10-foot shipping
containers houses the power system and fuel, the other provides a warm environment for instruments. Two
Iridium satellite modems allow 45 MB/day of data to be transferred across the internet.
Future enhancements to PLATO, currently in development, include a more modular design, using lithium
iron-phosphate batteries, higher power output, and a light-weight low-power version for field deployment from a
Twin Otter aircraft.
Technologies used in PLATO include a CAN (Controller Area Network) bus, high-reliability PC/104 com-
puters, ultracapacitors for starting the engines, and fault-tolerant redundant design.
Keywords: PLATO, Antarctica, robotic observatory