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Operational strategy

Supporting science – managing our assets

Our strategic aim is to provide and operate world-leading research infrastructure that enables scientists from the UK, and colleagues from many nations, to work safely and effectively in the polar regions.  A key goal is to be recognised nationally and internationally as a partner of choice for polar operational expertise wherever it can be applied.

Sunset over Adelaide Island, Antarctic Peninsula.
Sunset over Adelaide Island, Antarctic Peninsula.

Our operational support structure sustains a UK national capability in Antarctica and the Arctic to meet academic, policy and societal needs.

BAS operates a range of platforms to support scientific research including three research stations in the Antarctic and two on subantarctic South Georgia. One of these, King Edward Point (KEP), is managed on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI). We operate and manage the UK’s Arctic Research Station (NERC) to support and promote Britain’s Arctic research interests.


Five polar aircraft support UK research and operations in Antarctic and the Arctic. The largest is the four-engined de Havilland Canada Dash 7. Four de Havilland Canada Twin Otter aircraft deploy deep-field parties and work as science platforms.

The UK ice-strengthened research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough, which will be operational from late 2021, is one of the world’s most sophisticated floating laboratories. It will provide a world-leading platform to support complex multidisciplinary scientific missions in the polar regions and provide logistic support to Antarctic research stations. This world-class, ice-strengthened research ship will have state-of-the-art laboratories, enhanced capabilities for sophisticated environmental monitoring, and facilities for the deployment and operation of remotely operated and autonomous marine and airborne vehicles. We work in partnership with the Royal Navy’s ice patrol and survey ship HMS Protector.

Our ambition to sustain an active and influential presence in Antarctica on behalf of the UK Government is realised through successful partnerships and collaborations with other national polar operators, through our leadership role within the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP), and within EU-PolarNet.    International collaboration and successful stakeholder engagement enables the UK to achieve more than would be possible otherwise.

We are committed to environmental stewardship of the polar regions.  Through the work of our Environment Office we provide expert advice to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Polar Regions Department.  We are members of the UK delegation to Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties (ATCM) annual meetings.  Through our membership of the Ny Ålesund Science Managers Committee we ensure UK Arctic operational activities comply with internationally agreed standards for best practice.

SLE deep field team

Our operational teams aspire to achieve professionalism and innovation to safely deliver complex operations in extreme environments.  Our engineering and technology teams ensure that our research facilities meet the needs of the science community.  We take an innovative approach to developing engineering and technology solutions to advance scientific research.