Mobilising its broad skillsets, the Airbus group now proposes comprehensive maritime surveillance solutions complete with smart management systems linked to sensors far and wide.
With the economic importance of maritime interests growing by the day, so the accompanying risks and threats are growing too. These range from environmental hazards and accidents at sea to terrorism, trafficking and illegal immigration. Such are the challenges of maritime safety & security. The result? A growing number of countries are investing in high-tech MSS solutions to monitor maritime traffic and improve the safety of sea lanes, ports and offshore facilities.
Airbus and its highly integrated network of subsidiaries, have applied a unique mix of skillsets to develop comprehensive MSS solutions, including smart maritime traffic management systems and threat detection using, among other resources, aerial and satellite-based surveillance services developed in house.
The satellite systems combine data gathered by seven radar and optical earth observation spacecraft making up the Spot, Pléiades and TerraSAR-X constellations with data returned by shipboard AIS (automatic identification system) transceivers. The service delivers processed results to users by acquiring fresh imagery of any location on earth several times a day and processing it at a data centre in Toulouse, France.
Following this example, Airbus plans to develop a new surveillance and communications service using a HAPS high-altitude pseudo-satellite that will be operational in 2019. The first HAPS, dubbed Zephyr, will fly at 65,000ft. Powered by two electric motors, it will stay aloft for extended periods thanks to its large solar arrays. In July 2018, a demonstrator remained aloft for 26 days. Zephyr will return high-resolution imagery for significantly improved surveillance of the high seas while moving up to 1000nm per day.
Data gathered by satellites and pseudo-satellites will supplement that gathered by conventional MSS resources, including aircraft, radars, electro-optical systems, direction finders and AIS receivers. Airbus Defence & Space, incorporating Signalis, is a world leader in MSS. Its Styris solutions for civil and military clients include VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) systems to monitor traffic in ports and along sea lanes, especially where they pass through straits and the like, by overlaying charts with data from radars, surveillance cameras and AIS transceivers. More sophisticated coastal surveillance systems (CSSs) cover larger areas by integrating additional sensors and subsystems. Needs vary, depending on the region. In Europe, the focus is on accident prevention and the fight against trafficking and illegal immigration, while Asia faces the same risks plus piracy, and countries in the Middle East need enhanced surveillance capabilities to protect critical infrastructure and combat terrorism.
In France, Airbus has deployed the Spationav V2 system. This is considered the most comprehensive and tightly integrated MSS solution in service today. Installed along the entire French coastline and in certain overseas territories, it coordinates and processes data from shore-based radars, electro-optical systems, direction finders and AIS receivers, as well as shipborne, airborne and space-based sensors, and cross-links this information with other intelligence. Spationav V2 gives maritime surveillance agencies and other stakeholders a complete real-time picture of an area of interest. The Spationav V2 system draws on Airbus’s expertise in cybersecurity to provide high levels of security and resilience to cyber attacks, with data access protocols governed by strict operator accreditation rules. The latest version includes, like the Styris range, new, more intuitive operator interfaces co-designed with users to make the system both more effective and easier to operate.
Importantly, Spationav V2 is designed to support data not only nationally, but also internationally, the ultimate objective being to integrate data and intelligence across several countries. While acting as a significant incentive for international cooperation, this innovation meets the challenges of cross-border maritime surveillance.
Leveraging the latest advances in IT and artificial intelligence, these systems can detect suspicious behaviour in real time. This, in turn, introduces the possibility of developing mobile or virtual solutions using proprietary or shared servers offering increased processing power and the necessary guarantees with regard to data security. Airbus is also working on the integration of big data accessible via open internet sources and analysed by data centres now being developed by in-house teams to cross-reference and interpret these data in order to extract high added-value information enabling clients to understand situations in greater detail with a view to producing more reliable assessments.
More information in Mer et Marine Euronaval 2018 Special issue : "Naval Forces : focus on french technology"