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Before submitting a proposal, PIs are advised to check the availability of ships and airborne assets on the USAP website to ensure that these assets are not already committed for the time period requested in the proposal.  

Some useful links on the are

Logistical Requirements and Field Plan

Project Descriptions must contain sufficient information for reviewers and NSF staff to judge the scientific need for fieldwork, field readiness, and whether the resource levels requested are appropriate. Investigators must justify the need to conduct laboratory analyses in Antarctica rather than analyzing samples in their home laboratory. All instrumentation used in Antarctic fieldwork must be tested and considered operational prior to deployment.

  • Proposers must submit a Logistical Requirements and Field Plan, which will be subject to peer review, outlining the PI's logistical requests associated with the proposed field work. This statement must be included as a Supplementary Document in FastLane. Proposals with fieldwork that lack this Plan are subject to return without review. The Logistical Requirements and Field Plan must include the following elements and should be limited to one page of text and one page of figures (if needed):

    • Brief statement of research objectives
    • List of field sites and the geographic region in which they are located. For remote sites investigators should consider providing a map of proposed field sites with coordinates included.
    • Description of proposed field activities including major logistical resources required (e.g., fixed-wing aircraft, vessels, helicopter support, laboratory, and aquarium facilities).
    • Description and justification of the desired deployment schedule.
    • Projected numbers of deploying personnel.
    • Description of any needs for facility construction, alteration, or instrument installation. Investigators should consider providing a design and/or instrument plan as part of this description or referencing the proposal section in which details are discussed.
    • Provide references to any proposal text that describes aircraft instrumentation, unmanned aerial vehicle or drone use, scientific instruments or equipment with special support requirements, and field sampling or diving plans.

  • Investigators who require vessel support must fill out a UNOLS ship request form ( and submit the completed form as a Supplementary Document.
  • Proposals involving international collaborations must include letters from the foreign investigator acknowledging their role in the proposed collaboration and providing the name and contact details, as applicable,¬†for the foreign Antarctic program or foreign funding agency that will support the foreign investigator. These letters should be uploaded as Supplementary Documents.
  • Projects requiring support from PASSCAL, UNAVCO, PGC, and IDDO must include a letter of support from the facility, outlining supportability and any additional costs that will be incurred by the proposed work.

The Logistical Requirements and Field Plan will assist reviewers in assessing the readiness of the project and alert the USAP logistics team to the support requirements of the possible upcoming project. Additional information and descriptions of logistical support capabilities at all three U.S. Antarctic stations and on the two USAP research vessesl can be found on the USAP web portal on the Information for Proposers web site at

Investigators unsure of the logistics requirements necessary to accomplish their research goals should contact their cognizant Program Director, the Antarctic Research and Logistics Integration Associate Program Director (Nature McGinn,, the Research Support Manager (Jessie Crain,, or the Oceans Project Manager (Tim McGovern, in the Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics Section as ideas for research proposals are being developed.

Deployment of Scientific Instruments and Equipment

Proposals for instrument development must demonstrate that project management best practices will be used to manage the activity, including appropriate plans, milestones, and success criteria for pre-deployment testing and readiness reviews. The proposal must also demonstrate that the design is optimized to reduce operations and maintenance costs and maximize logistical efficiencies during deployment, servicing and recovery.

Successful operation of instruments and equipment will be achieved through proper development and engineering tests before deploying a new or existing piece of equipment.  Proper testing will help ensure that field resources are devoted to activities that are field-ready and can only be done or are best done in the Antarctic. This principle applies to both development of new and modification of existing instruments and equipment. It also applies to proposals for Antarctic fieldwork submitted to programs outside the Antarctic Sciences Section (ANT), such as proposals considered under the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program and proposals considered jointly with other Divisions.

Scientific instruments and equipment are expected to function in harsh environmental conditions, especially if deployed over the austral winter, and also must be immune to damage that could occur during shipment to the field or during the conduct of fieldwork. Deploying people, equipment, and instruments to Antarctica is expensive. Instruments and equipment must be developed with consideration of power, communications, space, ease of deployment, and other technical support needs, as well as the potentially detrimental effects of electromagnetic interference (EMI).  Furthermore, all computers, instruments, and equipment that will be connected to the USAP IT network must conform to U.S. Government Information Security requirements.

For all scientific instruments and equipment, and particularly for those intended for use at South Pole Station, NSF will carefully review EMI aspects as part of the environmental review process and may conduct additional technical review. NSF will require development of an operating schedule for any transmitting equipment. All new transmitters should expect to operate in a half-time mode for at least one year. This means that transmitters should be off for a period of at least a minute, and on for a similar time interval. Coordination of transmission schedules across all experiments will be done, but deviations from a set schedule to observe particular events can be considered. This will enable sensitive receiving experiments to divide their respective data sets into “transmitter on” and “transmitter off” intervals that have meaningful statistical weight. Proposers should review recommendations of the South Pole Users Committee, EMI Subcommittee Report available at

Proposals should include plans for instrument and equipment development, addressing appropriate resource and EMI issues described above, to make a compelling case that the work is justified. A proposed budget and schedule should also be developed.

Electromagnetic Spectrum Management

Deployed science field programs that require the use of radio spectrum must coordinate their requirements with USAP Spectrum Manager, a service provided to NSF by the U.S. Navy.

All systems to be introduced into Antarctica that intentionally emit radio frequency energy must be registered with the USAP Spectrum Manager and undergo a spectrum conflict coordination process to minimize the potential of interference with existing systems.  A proposed system may be required to change its design parameters, operating location, or time of operation to address potential interference concerns.  Please note that no distinction is made relative to FCC (or other national spectrum authority) designations for spectrum or type acceptance.  All emitting systems must be coordinated via the registration process, including unlicensed national information infrastructure (UNII) bands.

Systems introduced into Antarctica that are passive in their use of the radio frequency spectrum, other than GPS, are also required to register with the USAP Spectrum Manager.  By registering a system, potential interference from previously approved instrumentation can be identified and options for corrective action can be taken to allow time to implement engineering design, operational concept, or configuration changes for either system involved.  Additionally, registration of passive systems provides a greater measure of protection from any future conflicts with transmission systems.

Spectrum management coordination is implemented via the POLAR ICE in Support Information Package phases (

If you have questions, contact Patrick Smith ( in OPP's Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics Section.

Information Security Management

United States statute law and Executive Office of the President guidance regarding information security requirements for Federal information systems apply to the information technology (IT) infrastructure of the USAP.

All grantee scientific research instrumentation, personal computing devices (e.g., laptop computers), and remote interactions from home institution computing/networks to systems within the USAP general network infrastructure (i.e., within the domain) must comply with NSF/USAP information security requirements. Compliance is mandatory.

Federal information security guidance and requirements are constantly evolving.  It is impractical to capture specific requirements in this document.  Specific requirements for information security compliance are gathered and assessed via the Logistical Requirements and Field Plan, support information package, and on-going USAP science support process.  USAP information security policy, guidance instructions, advisories, and other related information can be found on the USAP web portal on the USAP Information Security Program homepage (

If you have questions, contact Patrick Smith ( in OPP's Antarctic Infrastructure and Logistics Section.

Safety and Health

A project that involves work in Antarctica must consider aspects of the research that may pose safety and health risks. Current U.S. Antarctic Program policies regarding safety and health are consistent with U.S. laws and regulations affecting research in the United States.

Office of Polar Programs safety and health specialists will review your proposal and Logistical Requirements and Field Plan carefully. They have found that most proposed Antarctic research can be carried out without undue risk. However, advance planning is essential, often in collaboration with the proposer. Your full and careful attention to safety and health aspects will help to make the planning efficient and effective. During review you may be asked for more information.

While USAP operates a comprehensive field safety program in Antarctica, this training is very general in nature and is not a substitute for specialized field safety training. If you are proposing to work in hazardous field locations, you should plan and budget for appropriate field team expertise, including, as needed, field safety guides.

Grants are made only if questions regarding a project's safety and health risks can be resolved.

The Office of Polar Programs has staff that are assigned full-time responsibilities in safety and health. Please feel free to contact them (see roster) during proposal preparation.

Underwater Diving

The U.S. Antarctic Program supports a scientific diving program similar to those of institutional members of the American Academy of Underwater Science. Scientific divers are expected to comply with guidelines in the USAP Diving Manual and Diving Standards. Funded researchers intending to conduct underwater diving in support of their research will be asked to document their dive plans and diver credentials (including polar diving experience). The proposal should include plans and budget information appropriate for the diving activity. In rare situations, the support contractor may be able to provide limited diving assistance. Contact the appropriate Program Director with questions.

If your proposed research involves underwater diving, check the appropriate box on the Diving worksheet in POLAR ICE. If your proposal receives funding, you will be asked to complete worksheets detailing your diving plans and the credentials of your dive team for review and approval by NSF. Only approved dive plans and divers will be authorized to dive in Antarctica. Your organization's Diving Safety Officer must endorse your request to engage in scientific diving in Antarctica.

Radioactive Materials and Waste

If you wish to use low-level radioactive materials (open or sealed sources) in Antarctica, you need to do so under your organization's radiation use license and with the approval of NSF. Budget for this in your proposal, buy the materials through your organization, and register as a radioisotope user with your radiation safety committee. You also must abide by any additional requirements imposed by NSF, in particular radioactive waste generation and packaging criteria for proper disposal of low-level radioactive waste generated during the research.

If your research involves use of low-level radioactive materials in Antarctica (open or sealed sources), complete the Radioactive Materials worksheets in POLAR ICE. Investigators who have completed that worksheet will receive an additional questionnaire, after the proposal has been funded, requesting details of their proposed radioisotope usage. Proposed use of radioisotopes must to be consistent with your organizational license and NSF policies. Your Radiation Safety Officer will be required to endorse your plans to use radioisotopes in Antarctica. Following this endorsement, your request must still be approved by NSF Safety and Health Staff.

For additional information, please see the USAP Participant Guide, Chapter 4, pages 39-41.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)

UASs, UAVs and RPAs are revealing themselves to be versatile platforms for scientific research and observation. Use of such systems in the harsh Antarctic environment can lead to unanticipated loss of equipment to the environment. In addition, use of these systems in the context of the USAP’s sometimes high tempo of air operations including fixed wing and helicopter flights requires careful consideration and appropriate controls. Consequently, their use for USAP science purposes must be specifically approved following consideration of factors such as:

  1. safety, notably to other aviation, ship and vehicle operations and associated ground personnel,
  2. environmental hazard, including existing treaty obligations and known or forseeable impacts, and
  3. risk mitigation strategies, agreed upon ahead of time and associated with their operational and scientific use.

These considerations include all aspects of unmanned aircraft including potential activities to recover or repair these systems once they have been deployed in the field.

It is a USAP guideline that any PI requests for permission to use these vehicles or aircraft be subject to current USAP aircraft, environmental and safety requirements. Requests for use of these systems must be accompanied by a Concept of Operations Document (CONOPS) that lays out operational (safety & environment) plans and considers appropriate risks. This CONOPS document will be considered and evaluated as part of the normal USAP planning process (proposal, Support Information Package, Research Support Plan). This requirement applies to all unmanned or remotely piloted systems, regardless of size, weight or form, although the detailed content of CONOPS documents for each request will be tailored on a case-by-case basis based on risks associated with the system.



You must have Adobe® Acrobat® Reader® to view PDF files. To obtain a free copy go to the NSF plug-in page ( and click the Adobe Reader link.

To request a paper copy contact David Friscic, Office of Polar Programs , (703) 292-8014, or e-mail for additional information.

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Divers Henry Kaiser and Dr. Stacy Kim prepare to go under the annual sea ice with the remotely operated vehicle called SCINI (Submersible Capable of under Ice Navigation and Imaging). Dr. Kim is conducting benthic research in depths of water between 40 and 200 meters. (NSF/USAP photo by Stacy Kim)

Last updated: 01/29/2015