Europe has long and complex sea borders with neighbouring countries. Securing these borders against external threats and illegal activity is necessary, but also challenging since Europe’s economy depends on open borders. Traditional methods of coastal surveillance, such as radio communication and radar, have proven useful but limited. They suffer from lack of accuracy and inadequate detection range. This creates security vulnerabilities. So Europe needs surveillance systems that retain the benefits of legacy systems while introducing new capacity via modern technologies. The EU-funded RANGER project delivered an integrated maritime surveillance platform that combines legacy systems with novel radar technologies and early warning systems. Such components, working together, improve the accuracy and range problems while introducing new tracking and intervention capabilities. The new system integrated, successfully tested and it is ready to contribute to the EU’s Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) framework.
Old and new combined
RANGER gathers data from various existing radar and surveillance systems and enhance the operational picture with two new radar sensors. One is an Over the Horizon (OTH) radar. The other is Photonics-Enhanced Multiple Input, Multiple Output (PE-MIMO), which uses multiple beams to achieve high accuracy at a distance. The system is able to provide radar tracks (the output of OTH and PE-MIMO for specific vessels), fused tracks (the output of the data fusion), plus data for the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and legacy systems outputs. The system processes all incoming data together, and the outcome is presented as an early warning system via advanced user interface. “RANGER’s advantage is that it extends the detection range,” explains Dimitris Katsaros, project coordinator, “improves the situational awareness, exchanges information through CISE and therefore enhances surveillance and speeds up search and rescue operations. Our main effort went into the provision of supporting technologies.” These featured data fusion algorithms, machine learning and rule-based notifications.
Search and rescue trials
One of RANGER’s main applications will be search and rescue. Speedy responses are essential. Achieving this involves a significant amount of data collection and coordination amongst various vessels and agencies. “RANGER, being able to fuse information from different sensors, can track vessels far beyond the legacy system,” states Katsaros. “Its early warnings improve response time and rescue outcomes. It allows authorities to share operational information through CISE and improve decision-making cooperation among EU countries.” RANGER has been tested and validated in four realistic pilot demonstrations off Greece, and France’s Mediterranean coast. The system successfully demonstrated short- and long-range detection as well as tracking of small vessels, prediction of vessel route and improved situational awareness. From this, the system successfully provided early warnings. It has been favourably evaluated by French and Greek government departments, the Hellenic Coast Guard, the Portuguese Navy, the Romanian Border Police and various radar experts. Researchers completed a detailed market analysis and undertook a technology readiness level assessment. The assessment demonstrated that RANGER overall has reached level 6 while the OTH radar reached level 7. The findings from these stages will be used to determine future commercialisation opportunities and directions once the necessary funding has been obtained. The system represents a step forward in European maritime surveillance capability. Among other applications, the solution will accelerate search and rescue response.
RANGER, surveillance, early warning, CISE, search and rescue, maritime surveillance, Common Information Sharing Environment, over-the-horizon radar, photonics-enhanced MIMO