The European Maritime Safety Agency’s (EMSA) new initiative to test the potential advantages of using UAVs to support security and scientific missions over its continental waters is fully under way, as teams begin operating from different countries that have requested services.
Late last year and early this year, the agency contracted a number of teams operating various UAV types to carry out over-sea surveillance for mission sets, including migration, emission monitoring, and illegal activity detection. Two of those are successfully flying routine missions—the Skeldar V-200 rotary-wing and Hermes 900 fixed-wing systems.
The V-200 is operating from Denmark by a team including the UAV’s manufacturer UMS Skeldar, Nordic Unmanned which is charged with providing the service under its operating license, and the NORCE Norwegian research center. Under the terms of the four-year contract, the team is tasked with 90-day deployments from different countries, and individual nations have to bid for the various work segments.
Skeldar is some two months into its first tasking, carrying a specialized emission detection sensor, and last week it detected the first contravention, picking up on a violation by the vessel’s emission levels, and is part of an initiative from EMSA to drive down emissions tenfold from a 5 percent level of sulfur to 0.5 percent by 2020.
“We’ve been flying pretty much every day in all weather conditions,” David Willems, business development lead for UMS Skeldar, told AIN. The second deployment is due to begin next month, and Willems noted that Greece, France, and the Netherlands have all requested services, although the final selection has not yet been made.
At present, two systems comprising four aircraft are used to support the mission, but if EMSA elected to ramp up its request to Skeldar supporting two mission sets in parallel, the company is prepared to up this provision to four systems.
Separately, Elbit Systems and CEiiA have announced that they have begun operating in Iceland in support of EMSA, based out of Egilsstaðir Airport, from where they can monitor in excess of half of Iceland's exclusive economic zone.
Carrying a radar, electro-optical sensor, satellite communications, an AIS receiver, and an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, the Hermes can monitor large areas of sea and coastline for suspicious activities and hazards.