Clarus Connects RRS Sir David Attenborough using Starlink Maritime

The Royal Research Ship (RRS) operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), is working with a team of experts from Clarus Networks Group to connect their advanced research vessel to high-speed internet for the first time. The team behind the work is Clarus’ specialist Maritime & Energy Division, in Norwich. 

RRS Sir David Attenborough is designed to carry out crucial scientific research in some of the most extreme environments on Earth. The vessel is currently at King Edward Point Research Station, operated by BAS, on the island of South Georgia, 860 miles south-east of the Falkland Islands.

The extreme remoteness of the region means that traditional communication infrastructure is virtually non-existent, leaving the RRS Sir David Attenborough isolated for extended periods. These remote Antarctic waters are known for their harsh environmental conditions, with extreme cold, hail, sleet, heavy rain, and gale-force winds posing constant threats to equipment and data communication.

Despite being one of the most advanced polar research vessels, in remote locations the crew aboard the RRS Sir David Attenborough previously used a two-way satellite ground station with a dish, called VSAT, which was first used at sea in the 1980s. Clarus Networks Group specialises in connecting the world’s most remote places and installed state-of-the-art low Earth orbit satellite technology, Starlink Maritime, to deliver high-speed internet to the vessel. 

Using Starlink Maritime, the Sir David Attenborough crew can now seamlessly transfer bandwidth-intensive data, enhancing the overall communication capabilities of the vessel by supporting real-time collaboration and data sharing among researchers. The increased bandwidth has also improved crew welfare, providing a more robust and stable connection for communication with loved ones, accessing support systems, and enhancing the overall quality of life for the crew.

Dean Evans, Head of Communications Engineering, British Antarctic Survey, said:

“Connecting people at our bases and on the ship to the rest of the world has never been easier – Starlink has transformed communication for everyone at BAS. Having a consistently fast and reliable connection has opened avenues that were not possible before with older satellite technology, and working in remote, isolated areas is now so much easier and safer for everyone.

Faster speeds now possible with Starlink enables scientists to collect and deliver data more effectively and makes it easier for those in Antarctica to reliably stay in contact with friends and family.

This technology makes managing our remote sites easier and more convenient, from at-a-glance updates to in-depth data mining and metrics.”

As the consequences of climate change become increasingly visible, and with historically low winter sea ice levels, the work of BAS has never been more critical. The organisation is climate modelling and maintaining long-term datasets, which are vital in understanding and addressing the challenges posed by the rapidly changing polar regions.

Clarus’ solution includes Starlink Flat High Performance Antennas, which are specifically designed to withstand extreme conditions and provide a constant stable connection. Starlink Maritime offers download speeds of up to 220 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 40 Mbps at sea, ensuring efficient data transfer for research purposes. With a latency of 20-99ms, researchers can conduct real-time communication and data transmission without delays.

Norwich-based Chris Schonhut, Maritime and Energy Director of The Clarus Networks Group, shared his thoughts on the collaboration with British Antarctic Survey: 

“Our partnership with BAS in equipping the RRS Sir David Attenborough demonstrates the power of low Earth orbit satellites. This impressive vessel will now be enabled by connectivity, instead of restricted, allowing real-time data transmission, communication, and collaboration, ensuring that BAS scientists can work efficiently

Clarus is immensely proud to support BAS’s vital research in some of the world’s harshest environments.”

Using connectivity powered by Clarus, BAS is also set to test innovative technologies like the Windracers ULTRA Remotely Piloted Airborne System (RPAS) at Rothera Research Station, showcasing their commitment to pioneering solutions for polar data collection.

Clarus also offers a bandwidth management and crew welfare connectivity platform for the maritime industry. This platform leverages LEO satellite broadband and liberates operations from the limitations of traditional VSAT. The system also allows for the bonding of multiple networks, such as Starlink and OneWeb, or integrating 4G technology, enhancing IT operation performance at sea.

Notes to editors 

Headquartered in Scotland and launched in 2014, the Clarus Networks Group specialises in fully managed networking solutions to connect businesses with their teams across the world, no matter how remotely located they are. From energy and construction to retail and healthcare, Clarus works across a wide range of sectors providing network design, installation, and support services, keeping users online 24/7. 

Clarus harnesses the power of major satcoms and telecoms networks, combined with state-of-the-art technology, to provide the best possible communications coverage for each site and project, including in remote areas where terrestrial signals are poor or non-existent.

Learn more: 

About British Antarctic Survey 

The British Antarctic Survey strives to uncover the secrets of the Polar Regions and the frozen regions of the Earth. Our expertise spans the depths of the oceans to the inner edge of space.  

Our research highlights the fragility of the Earth’s frozen environments, and what that means for our planet. We have been living and working in the extremes of Antarctica and the Arctic for over 60 years. Our scientists discovered the hole in the ozone layer and identified key evidence for climate change in ancient ice – our science continues to inform decision-makers. We provide the UK’s national polar capability by operating research stations, aircraft and Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough, supporting science at the poles and securing the UK’s presence in Antarctic affairs.

The British Antarctic Survey is part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). NERC is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).  

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