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Development of Pre-operational Services for Highly Innovative Maritime Surveillance Capabilities

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Innovative tools to keep watch at sea

Seas and oceans are massive, providing cover for many clandestine activities and environmental hazards. An EU initiative developed a new surveillance system using sensor and Earth observation (EO) data to help monitor marine activity much more closely.

Digital Economy

The EU is seeking to improve maritime surveillance capability, for instance through new innovative software tools using EO data. Viable solutions include developing decision support modules (DSMs) that aim to provide actual, measurable and effective support for users' decision-making processes. Funded by the EU, the 'Development of pre-operational services for highly innovative maritime surveillance capabilities' (DOLPHIN) project took up this challenge. The project outlined operational requirements for the DSMs with support from previous Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) projects, open source information, relevant reports and DOLPHIN partners. New software algorithms were developed so that generated data can be used by external European and national systems, while the software itself will feed the DSMs for each of the three identified policy areas: border surveillance, traffic safety and fisheries control. To enhance maritime border surveillance, maritime traffic safety and security, and the fight against illegal fishing activities at sea, project members first addressed several technological gaps. These include more timely and reliable information, improvement of situational awareness and increase of reaction capabilities through the provision of reliable DSMs. The developed software tools and DSMs are designed for use in regular operations. They will improve the monitoring activities of port and maritime authorities, coast guards and law enforcement agencies in the main policy areas. Specifically, stakeholders will benefit from enhanced detection of small or fast boats widely used for drug trafficking and illegal immigration, and improved monitoring to reduce the risk of ship collisions, piracy, transportation of hazardous goods and illegal fishing activity. DOLPHIN brought novel technological and operational advances to maritime surveillance, from increasing the precision of information to the pace of decision making. Stakeholders can look forward to a brighter future for the detection and monitoring of seafaring vessels. Innovative high-tech solutions include better radar processing, feature extraction and recognition for fast and/or small boats, multi-sensor data fusion for traffic safety and sea-state modelling. The project's solutions will enable users to localise vessels more accurately, detect smaller ships. Undoubtedly, these capabilities will play a pivotal role in enhancing safety and security on the seas.


Sea, earth observation, maritime surveillance, decision support modules

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