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APS-NET Report Summary

Project ID: 315282
Funded under: FP7-SME
Country: Cyprus

Final Report Summary - APS-NET (Active & Passive Sensor NETwork)

Executive Summary:
The project has planned, designed, developed and manufactured a prototype sensor technology that enables surveillance of the surroundings of a vessel. It was installed on a commercial vessel, tested and demonstrated.

Project video can be found here:

Project Context and Objectives:
A number of end-user scenarios were developed at project start with the help of the end-users. These scenarios reflect the most likely user cases of the system, in prioritized order. These scenarios were thereafter converted to a detailed list of functional requirements, which finally ended with the chosen system architecture. A significant part of this process was the understanding of the relative merit and the actual technical feasibility of different possible adjunct sensors supporting a main APS-NET system, which was done addressing the various user scenarios and functional requirements, in particular the more demanding requirements such as all-weather/all-day operation. This led to the multi-sensor approach utilising raw radar data whilst deselecting other possible sensor components on a cost-benefit basis.

Three different types of radar systems were deemed necessary to fulfil the requirements: long range radars (detection and tracking of objects in a distance), man over board radars (detecting people going overboard) and passive radars were chosen to identify and locate radio communications between smaller or larger vessels to identify e.g. pirates approaching a target vessel. Small wooden boats may be hard to find with conventional radars, but if there is communication it is possible to detect that and estimate range of the approaching vessels.

By consulting experts within the consortium a system description was established containing a number of new innovations needed in order to both fulfil the majority of functional requirements and the anticipated production costs of the system. After a number of technical specification iterations, the potentially best components were ordered. In parallel, the main data processing software architecture was developed, in order to be ready when the sensor hardware was finalized.
Following a period of new component innovations, a first setup of a basic system got assembled (i.e. a demonstration system). This very first setup got tested twice in Germany.

The aim of these measurements was to verify the performance of the sensor system. It was found that the performance was close to the requirements specified at the beginning of the project. In addition the data that was gathered during this test campaign was used to develop and test the detection algorithms (implemented inside the sensors) and the data fusion and processing SW (implemented in the central data processing server). The first tests resulted in some waveform and signal processing changes and optimisations:
• Increase Length of R- FFT from 512 to 1024
• Thresholding and noise calculated for each range-gate and DBF-Beam separately
• Optimising the detection and angular estimation algorithm
With these optimisations another measurement was done in Kiel.

Other measurements included tests for hardware modules and estimation algorithms, which were done under laboratory conditions.
While the field test and laboratory work was optimising single sensor performance, some work also was done to analyse frequency interference and setup/modify the sensor to reduce interference.
Another part was the modification of an existing different sensor for the MOB application. These MOB test sensor was than tested by S&T intensively.
Further on, it was decided to setup a measurement station in Norway, so that more data recordings in different weather scenarios could be done. This setup was done and under control by an end-user, essential for studying effects of different sea states.
Another thing was the analysis and suppression of water or ice film on the sensor. The high attenuation of even small water films led after evaluation of different options to the use of special radome coatings, which have been investigated by our hardware partners.

The passive radars were chosen to use COTS radio receiver solutions. It turned out during the testing that the HW was not sufficient to handle the number of channels required to solve the task in real time. Thus a redesign would be required to be able to track and locate radio signals. Recordings shows that the varying signal strengths and disturbance from the vessels own radio transmitters gives some additional challenges. While transmitting own signals the inputs on the receivers are blocked due to the high output strength of the local radio signals they pick up.

In parallel a communication with the end-user started to facilitate the installation on board a commercial vessel. This proved challenging given the extremely harsh environment that the system would be exposed and all the regulations that the system would need to comply with.
The installation process was done step-wise. Firstly, during the vessels dry-dock the hot work and the cabling from the sensor locations to the IT room were performed. The sensor units and the IT equipment got installed during various day-stops in port. After the installation work was completed, a week long field test sailing with the vessel provided the opportunity to test the sensor hardware, as well as further optimize the data processing software.

Among other initial conclusions the partners discovered that it is possible to install small radar sensors even in the front of a vessel and withstand harsh weather conditions and waves with reinforced brackets.

Even though the functional requirements are very challenging, the concept of our solution was shown during a demonstration towards the end of the project, though at a reduced level of performance relative to the (optimistic) parameters initially considered, since the system is currently a proof of concept, not an industrial prototype.

Project Results:
The main S&T activity was to design a sensor system for observations of vessels/platforms surroundings, implement the sensor system, install the system on a large commercial platform, validate the system and its installation/integration, and demonstrate the main applications of the system.
The overall preparation for the demonstration was successful and unique for this project. All sensor units were installed on the vessel however not all in full operational mode. The MOB radars were completely installed and fully operational, the MoB system had all sub-systems working and system performance was in line with the chosen capability for the demonstration event. The long range radars were hindered by the fact that the vessel was docked close to the shore line. During the demo an attempt was made to mitigate this effect by repositioning some of the long range radars, but their functionality was still limited. The passive radar system was not operational during the demonstration, due to the issues addressed above. To test the MOB radars, a dummy was used. In order to emulate the operational uses of the long range system (detection of objects near the vessel) a generic target was used consisting of a search and rescue boat from the host vessel with defined target characteristics.
The demonstration cases first included the use of test target (a dummy) dropped from the ship to demonstrate the detection of falling overboard capabilities. The next set of demonstrations focused on ‘on-the-water’ targets to demonstrate the system's capability for selective detection of small targets at medium to long ranges. The test target (SAR boat) was run from distances close to the vessel to the furthest away point in the harbour area while being tracked by the system.
A major part of the project has been the dissemination of results and the leveraging of project results for the benefit of the participating companies. Early in the project a project website was established to provide an information platform. This site was continuously maintained and improved during the project. The project also recorded and produced a video documentary of the demonstration event; this can be seen on
In the second reporting period a major activity was the securing of the Intellectual Property Rights of the project. In the preparation for the formal patent application process, the project SMEs provided a screening of the project work to identify the unique aspects of the projects and the technical solutions, along with a broad search of existing patents and publications. In order to secure the broadest possible IPR, a search was made for professional patent agents with relevant experience and good track record. After a competitive process the patent lawyers got selected and authorized for the patent filing process.
It was further considered if other parties had explored the APS-NET concept and published relevant papers. These findings proved the usefulness of the overall project and application also for other applications. However it forced a rethink of the patenting strategies resulting in a bigger than expected effort to scope and structure the patents to appropriately protect the project results. This was a useful exercise and the result was the generation of one substantial patent that was filed within the project final months. The patent filed was the following:
- reference patent number: 14194865.3 (European Patent Office);
- owner: Maritime Radar Systems Limited;
- title: A system for monitoring a maritime environment
The APS-NET project developed a new sensor technology with multiple application areas for maritime shipping and offshore energy applications. To facilitate the exploration of the already defined applications for new-to-the project maritime companies and also to investigate alternative and further applications, a one-day workshop was arranged. The workshop provided a good basis for constructive exchange of ideas and suggestions.
A final and significant part of the project was the production of a promotion video. The intention of the video was to capture the final demonstration for the EU Commission and to provide a promotional tool for the system and solution for customer discussion and business development.

Potential Impact:
The progress to the end of the project was talented (though not all demonstrations were in place). The plan for component cost savings compared to DoW has been accomplished with a good margin, which has enabled inclusion of third party supporting sensors into the assembly. While the first functional model was outside the desired cost envelope, this excursion is due to the use of literal first of their kind transmitter and detector components, the cost of which will fall dramatically when produced in quantity. These additional sensors particularly help the signal processing part of the system to ‘understand’ what the main sensor is sensing. The total system production cost will therefore be as anticipated in the DoW (but having additional sensor components).
A first prototype got tested to gain the first experimental observations. Consequent modification resulted in a first mock-up. Following, the first APS-NET prototype got assembled and installed for offshore testing against the initial functional requirements. Following these tests the project did a number of demonstrations that showed the potential of the system for sought for functional achievements.
Based on these functional achievements the project established a work specification outline for the future industrialisation of the system. A number of prototypes may be produced (and sold) for further testing and modifications for a period before the industrialisation process (including larger production orders) will start. Existing end-users/clients of the project partners have expressed their interest in the developments, also for additional (but similar) applications to those developed in the project.
Any user/client needing oceanographic real-time observations (wind, current, waves, object detection) of object at sea with a dense sampling in space and time is a wished for client. Thus the project target a larger socio-economic impact than what is foreseen in the project’s Description of Work.
An aggressive plan got adopted to preserve the intellectual property (IPR) generated as a result of the user /technical group interactions and focused design processes. A broad sweeping patent application got filed before the end of the project.

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