Combating irregular migration, human smuggling, piracy and other types of transnational crimes as well as increasing maritime traffic safety has become a high priority on Europe’s maritime agenda. These critical maritime issues require new or improved systems to detect and localise ships. Satellite-based radar systems make it possible to extend maritime surveillance capabilities and enable systematic monitoring of a site. This is where the spyGLASS project comes in. A multi-national European consortium comprising companies and research institutes introduced a prototype of passive bistatic radar (PBR) technology based on Galileo transmissions. The newly developed technology is completely passive (i.e. without a transmitter) low-cost, allows covert operation and reduces environmental impact. Multiple constellations, passive technology Currently, maritime surveillance is conducted by coastal radars, Earth observation satellites equipped with radar or optical sensors, surface ships or aircraft. Although each method boasts certain advantages, none of them can act as a sufficient standalone solution given the need for worldwide coverage or spatial and temporal continuity. Common transmitters of opportunity such as VHF and DVB-T rely on terrestrial transmissions and therefore have limited utility and intermittent coverage. “GNSS signals can pinpoint receiver locations anywhere in the world and anytime, extending coverage capability to areas hundreds of miles away from the coast,” points out project coordinator Claudio Calisti. “Passive bistatic radar network systems contain multiple spatially diverse transmitters of opportunity and receivers where each pair of a transmitter and a receiver forms a bistatic radar. In spyGLASS the transmitters of opportunity are any kind of GNSS satellites (Galileo, GLONASS, GPS). This multi-satellite/multi-constellation configuration allows to better resolve ambiguities in resolution data, while also extending the maximum range that can be detected and displayed without ambiguity,” further explains Calisti. In other words, PBR technology when used with the Galileo constellation guarantees full coverage of Earth by a number of satellites. Given the very low power of GNSS signals, the ability to process signals from more than one satellite/constellation is obviously an advantage. “spyGLASS technology is passive, meaning that there is no dedicated transmitter, which is the bulkiest, most energy-consuming, and most expensive component of a classic active radar,” says Calisti. Therefore, such a system can operate on its own or complement existing maritime surveillance systems. In addition, the passive system does not generate additional electromagnetic pollution on its own, and thanks to its reduced size, has a limited impact on the landscape. Final product, future plans In its current configuration – mounted on a van – the system is already available for purchase on the market. According to the given roadmap, the final version of the product will be commercially available in 2019. Potential users include those entities that have a mandate to provide public services or information related to maritime awareness. Some of them have already been contacted and they have shown considerable interest: Italian Navy, Tributary Police and Coast Guard, as well as Greek Navy and Coast Guard. So far, current prototypes elicited only positive feedback by these potential end users who highlighted the advantages of spyGLASS with respect to the state-of-the-art technologies.
spyGLASS, maritime surveillance, Galileo, passive bistatic radar (PBR), satellite, GNSS