Ice accretion often poses serious operational and safety challenges in a wide range of industries, such as aircraft, wind turbines, power transmission cables, oil field exploration and production, as well as marine transport. Great efforts have been expended to research and develop viable solutions for ice prevention. Effective ice protection techniques, however, have yet to be developed. Ice prevention measures that are currently available often consume significant amounts of de-icing chemicals or energy, and these approaches are expensive to operate and have long-term economic and environmental impacts. Here, a new ice protective strategy based on thin film surface acoustic waves (SAWs) is proposed that generates: nanoscale “earthquake”-like vibrations, acoustic streaming, and acousto-heating effects, directly at the ice–structure interface, which actively and effectively delays ice nucleation and weakens ice adhesion on the structure surface. Compared with the conventional electro-thermal de-icing method, the SAW approach demonstrates much-improved energy efficiency for ice-removal. The potential for the dual capability of autonomous ice monitoring and removing functions using the SAW generation elements as transducers is also explored.