A contract signed by a European agency will enable satellites to boost connectivity for maritime surveillance drones on long-range missions
A contract signed by a European agency will enable satellites to boost connectivity for maritime surveillance drones on long-range missions.
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has contracted SES Networks’ managed services to provide satellite coverage for remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) services that will be mobilised for maritime surveillance activities. These services will be utilised when RPAS units fly outside radio coverage.
These aircraft drones will be deployed to improve maritime security and safety operations in European waters and to help respond to pollution caused by ships and oil and gas installations.
Drones can provide images during ship salvage and pollution clean-up operations. A remotely piloted unit was used to scan the area during the salvage of containers off the German and Dutch coasts after containers fell from MSC Zoe in January 2019.
RPAS-driven missions will be carried out in the seas surrounding the European Union.
Drones will communicate with shore control centres over SES’ satellite constellation, particularly during long-range and long-endurance operations.
For this, SES Networks will design, deploy and maintain connectivity during the missions through satellite communications.
EMSA executive director Maja Markovčić Kostelac said satellite coverage is essential for long-range RPAS operations. “It will help our users to gain a more complete maritime picture and will enable the transmission of data from multiple sensors in real-time,” he said, “allowing users to focus more closely on the actual operation.”
SES Network’s managed services will include secure end-to-end satellite and terrestrial links, satellite capacity and teleport infrastructure.
This will be required to support EMSA’s Beyond Radio Line-of-Sight RPAS operations. It will also be used for satellite-enabled internet services to distribute the RPAS data and enable end-users to remotely follow the mission.
“To enable real-time and long-range RPAS data applications, we will be leveraging our global satellite fleet, which boasts virtually 100% availability,” said SES Networks senior vice president for global government services Nicole Robinson. “Coupled with the managed service, this will give multiple advantages to those fulfilling mission-critical tasks at sea.”
In 2017, EMSA asked Martek Marine to provide RPAS services for maritime surveillance, including monitoring ship emissions and marine pollution. Martek was responsible for developing remotely piloted aircraft to monitor emissions, including sulphur oxide from ship exhaust. At the time, Martek said it would develop methods of incorporating command and control and payload data streaming over satellite so the drone can operate beyond radio line-of-sight capabilities.
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Ship emissions and sulphur levels in fuel will be discussed at the Americas Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference, to be held in Houston on 5-6 March, and at the Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference, Awards & Exhibition in Europe, in May.