The Airbus Foundation will support the Polar POD maritime expedition in the Southern Ocean. This mission hopes to promote a better understanding of the environment and climate change. The Airbus Foundation will provide access to Airbus products and services to support the overarching scientific programme and the operation phases of the mission.

Humans must explore!


Polar Pod

Standing on the Moon in 1971, Dave Scott, the Commander of the Apollo 15 mission, said: “There’s a fundamental truth to our nature, Man must explore.” 

And although when we think of exploration in the 21st century we often look to the heavens, there is still much we do not know about our own planet. If we want to better understand Earth, especially global environmental and climate dynamics, we also need to look closer to home. Our oceans in particular still hold many secrets. 

No ocean is as mysterious as the Southern Ocean. Due to its remoteness and inhospitable environment, it is tremendously under-surveyed. While more research needs to be done, we know that it plays a vital role in climate circulation. As the need to tangibly address climate change becomes more and more critical, these gaps in our understanding urgently need to be filled. 

The Airbus Foundation has signed a new partnership with Association Océan Polaire, a non-profit organisation founded by renowned French explorer Jean-Louis Etienne, which is also supported by major governmental and institutional organisations (including the United Nations and International Union for Conservation of Nature) and prestigious scientific bodies.

The Airbus Foundation will provide Polar POD with satellite imagery from Airbus Earth observation satellites as well as access to Airbus telecommunications services so that the Polar POD team can share their progress from their remote location in the Southern Ocean.


The Airbus Foundation has signed an agreement with the Polar POD expedition to support both the scientific programme and the operational phase of the mission. The Airbus Foundation will provide access to products and services such as Earth observation satellite data, as well as offering additional capabilities for reliable high-speed telecommunications.

Introducing the Polar Pod


Polar Pod

At the heart of this mission is an innovative vertical vessel: the Polar POD. 

Able to accommodate eight people, the Polar POD sits on a 330 ft rig weighing 1,000 tons – strong enough to tackle the huge waves in the Southern Ocean. The crew – three sailors, four scientists and a cook – will perform two-month stints on the Polar POD. Over a two-year mission, the Polar POD will gather valuable scientific information as it travels some 24,000 kilometres, circling Antarctica. This autonomous vessel will be propelled by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and will produce its own electricity from wind turbines and photovoltaic cells, ensuring minimal interference with the environment during its mission. 

The information collected by the Polar POD will help us to better understand human impact on the environment. It will measure sea-air carbon dioxide exchanges, detect man-made impacts such as microplastics and pesticides, and analyse the ocean: its weather, waves, winds and even its colour. These insights will help promote better understanding of the climate and climate change.


Supporting the Polar POD mission


The Airbus Foundation will work with Association Océan Polaire by providing Airbus products and services to support the overarching scientific programme, as well as the operation phases of the Polar POD mission. 

Airbus satellites including Pléiades Neo and TerraSAR-X will be able to monitor the state of the sea and also detect and monitor any icebergs which may pose a threat to the Polar POD. 

Airbus Earth observation satellites will provide Polar POD with high-resolution images of the ocean for educational purposes, and Polar POD will also benefit from additional Airbus telecommunications services to deliver real-time data, even from an extremely isolated part of the world. 

The Polar POD expedition aims to provide a clearer picture of the state of our planet. And with greater understanding, the human race will be better positioned to take action to combat climate change and protect our planet for the generations to come. 

The Polar POD initiative is part of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).
Polar Pod

Polar POD will explore the Southern Ocean, which has the world's largest ocean data gap. Severely under-sampled by traditional methods, we have designed the Polar POD: a floating inhabited laboratory that can withstand the severe conditions of the ‘Furious Fifties’ all year round. This huge circumpolar ocean is the largest oceanic carbon sink on Earth; climate models have an urgent need for this uptake of CO2. The Southern Ocean, which links the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific waters, is an immense reservoir of marine biodiversity. Polar POD, a silent platform, is a unique opportunity to make an acoustic census of marine life. The resulting data will be shared by scientific institutions worldwide, and available for collaborative educational projects. Thank you to the Airbus Foundation for contributing to this unprecedented and long-awaited maritime exploration

 Jean-Louis Etienne

Polar Pod

Polar Pod Expedition

An extraordinary seaside adventure, a scientific and technological challenge