The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is improving coastguard monitoring and surveillance of maritime activity with a drone contract valued at nearly $72 million.
EMSA has contracted fixed-wing medium-size drones from the REACT consortium and another consortium composed of the Portuguese Air Force, UAVISION and DEIMOS. These drones allow flights of both long endurance and long range.
The record maritime drone deal is part of a five-year strategy which also sees Martek Marine providing more compact drones and associated services. The contracted drones from Martek will be used to perform beyond visual line of sight operations and will assist with border control activities, search and rescue operations and monitoring of pollution, as well as the detection of illegal fishing and drug and people trafficking. Video and drone sensor data will be streamed live to a control center, to allow E.U. Member States to make prompt decisions on intervention actions.
Martek’s role involves a two-year contract that will see the company providing drones, pilots, long-range antennae, mission control vehicles and ground crew.
The drones chosen are compact and extremely maneuverable, and they are able to start and land vertically from both shore and vessels. Focusing on short range operations, the drones will be equipped with the latest sensors designed for maritime surveillance. To operate effectively in the harsh maritime environment, the technology has been developed to withstand storm force wind and heavy rain, snow and salt spray.
A typical surveillance task involves the deployment of a drone from the deck of a ship to a specified area of interest. The drone then collects requested surveillance information before sending it, in addition to payload data, to the users.
Operations are expected to commence mid-2017.
Martek’s contract follows the company being awarded a previous $10 million contract by EMSA for ship engine emission monitoring using drones in November 2016.