RPAS drones measuring ship emissions in Danish waters

The Danish authorities have requested once again the European Maritime Safety Agency’s (EMSA) remotely piloted aircraft system services to support the monitoring of ship emissions around the area of the Great Belt strait.

Image by EMSA

The shipping lane is used by many large tankers transiting on their way to and from the Baltic Sea.

As explained, the RPAS will measure the ships’ sulphur emissions to check compliance with EU rules governing the sulphur content of marine fuel.

Measurements will be transmitted in real time to the EMSA RPAS Data Centre and to THETIS EU, which will create alerts to be followed up by the competent authorities.

According to EMSA, the deployment of the RPAS from the Danish coast started on 6 July in support of the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DEPA) and is a continuation of previous services in 2018 and 2019.

Specifically, RPAS are said to provide provide “an effective mean” for monitoring ship compliance with the MARPOL Annex VI for Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) — the RPAS unit passes through the exhaust gas plume from ships’ stacks and analyses the plume with a dual sniffer system from which the sulphur content in the fuel burnt is derived. The sulphur content in the fuel used together with images, video, flight path, measurements is transferred in near to real time and stored in the RPAS DC. The data centre is directly linked to THETIS-EU, a central database that inspectors can consult.

In case of a possible non-compliant vessel, further control can be prioritised at the next port of call.

As in 2019, the service provider for this deployment is the consortium comprising Nordic Unmanned AS, and NORCE Norwegian Research Centre AS. This year, the deployment will be performed by the Schiebel CAMCOPTER S100 flying with Nordic Unmanned AS’s tail number. It is an RPAS for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) with a flight endurance of more than six hours that can pursue night operations.

The aircraft payload includes the Explicit mini sniffer sensor system for vessel emissions monitoring. The Satcom services to directly connect the site of operation to the RPAS-DC are provided by VIASAT.

EMSA’s RPAS services have been developed to assist in maritime surveillance and monitoring operations to support national authorities involved in coast guard functions. This includes –maritime pollution and emissions monitoring; detection of illegal fishing, anti-drug trafficking, and illegal immigration; border surveillance; and, search and rescue operations.

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