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Maritime Surveillance UAV Adds New SAR Capability

By Caroline Rees / 21 Oct 2021
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Under a new contract from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), CLS and TEKEVER have added a new device to the maritime patrol version of their Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), the ability to deploy rescue boats for up to 8 people. 


Through a four-year contract with maximum budget of €30 million, EMSA is replacing a previous contract signed in 2018 for Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) flights, by adding this new rescue capability for unmanned surveillance of European waters. 

Deploying a boat of this size by Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is a first in Europe. The device features Artificial Intelligence (AI) that calculates the best time to release the lifeboat to get as close as possible to the ship or person in distress. This new capability has been fully demonstrated during search and rescue exercises, with the aircraft’s onboard sensors allowing the detection of survivors as the starting point for calculating the best drop point without any human intervention. The onboard AI allows the deployment of the liferaft at a distance close enough and certain enough to optimize the chances of rescue. 

EMSA is facilitating increased collaboration between European countries by enabling the deployment of regional operations and in doing so enhancing the effectiveness of surveillance over European waters. 

The collaboration between the CLS-TEKEVER consortium (named REACT) and EMSA has been completing drone operations since 2018, totaling 1200 flight hours on the counter and nearly 250 missions over the 4 years. 

During these flights, UAVs were used for maritime surveillance and safety in European waters, environmental protection (detection of oil pollution, potential identification of polluters, and support for the fight against illegal dumping), fisheries control, and general maritime law enforcement. 

“CLS has helped save more than 50,000 lives in over 30 years of activity through our contract to operate the French COSPAS- SARSAT Mission Control Center. This experience has led us to propose to EMSA a support to the rescue missions of the coast guards of the Member States,” said Nadia Maaref, Director of Maritime Security at CLS.

“Since 2017, we have been using our RPA in missions commissioned by many European actors. When it comes to fighting illegal fishing, trafficking or pollution, RPAS are an essential complementary tool to the satellite services we provide to maritime authorities. With this new capability, our UAVs complete the arsenal of safety at sea that we offer. We are very proud to serve a European body like EMSA, which is at the cutting edge of technology. This renewed trust is a guarantee of the state-of-the-art of our solutions and of the reliability of our operations. ” 

“We’ve consistently and successfully tested the TEKEVER AR5’s new Lifesaver capability, by deploying life rafts with very high precision in a fully automated process,” added Ricardo Mendes, TEKEVER’s CEO. 

“This new capability, that will already be available in upcoming contracts, allows us to provide a first response in emergency situations. For the first time, and beyond detecting people in distress, we can now immediately do something to help them. This directly supports our mission of making the sea safer.”

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Posted by Caroline Rees Caroline co-founded Unmanned Systems Technology and has been at the forefront of the business ever since. With a Masters Degree in marketing Caroline has her finger on the pulse of all things unmanned and is committed to showcasing the very latest in unmanned technical innovation. Connect & Contact
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