Operational Activations of Maritime Surveillance Services within the Framework of MARISS, NEREIDS and SAGRES Projects
Margarit, Gerard
GMV Aerospace and Defence, S.A.U., SPAIN

European borders are facing new challenging security threats that demand enhanced surveillance systems. In the maritime domain, main drivers are the avoidance of loss of lives at sea, the increasing of safe and rescue measures, the enhancement of law verification and enforcement (for custom dealing and illegal immigration) and the provision of safer corridor lanes. The coverage of maritime European borders, especially at the Mediterranean Sea and West Africa coast, needs from Pan-European initiatives that involve more than one Member State (MS). Otherwise, the main goals would not be successfully fulfilled. In such initiatives, data fusion is essential as currently there is no sensing device that can provide ship location, tracking and identification information with a competitive spatial-temporal coverage. Main assets include ship / airborne surveillance, cooperative data streams (AIS, LRIT...), coastal remote sensing (Visible, IR, Thermic...) and Earth Observation (EO, SAR & Optic).
In this context, the European Commission (EC) and European Space Agency (ESA) have promoted R&D projects with the target to provide insights into a future system able to cope with maritime surveillance at European level in an integrated and efficient way. The system shall support and complement current operational practices, which are mainly conducted by short-range sensing devices plus local surveillance resources (ship and airborne). The scale is the key parameter as ideally the system should provide the same tracking and identification capabilities of local sensors at the scale of the whole European maritime border. From a technical point of view, key topics to solve are:

  • Advanced processing of cooperative means with alarm detection, route propagation and constraint-based track delineation (coastline, bathymetry, harbour...)
  • Proper exploitation of EO data with extraction of reliable information. Main concerns are putted in the detection of small and non-metallic ships, and the provision of enough parameters for their classification. The detection of large and metallic ships is currently mature.
  • Integration of the information derived by in-situ or local devices, such as coastal radars, ship radars or underwater sensors.
  • Integration of supporting information derived from statistics and external reports that can shed light on the best way to exploit the available assets. The output is related to strategic information so that areas of interest can be isolated in a semi-automatic manner with decision support algorithms.
  • Standardization of the dissemination mechanisms and fully integration into user systems
  • Capability to success in load and performance tests that assure that system performance is not dropped down when the load of the system increases.

    Examples of European initiatives are ESA's MARISS, EC's NEREIDS, DOLPHIN and SIMTISYS from the FP7 2010 space call, and EC's SAGRES and LOBOS from the FP7 2012 space call. The projects of the FP7 2010 security call PERSEUS, SEABILLA and I2C are also important, but they are more focused to the enhancement of current operational means.
    GMV is involved in MARISS and is the Project Manager of NEREIDS and SAGRES:

  • MARISS is building up a network providing operational services to different MS with the current state of the art of maritime surveillance systems (EO + cooperative)
  • NEREIDS is devoted to provide R&D answers to specific key technical topics
  • SAGRES aims to pre-operationally activate the services defined in the CONOPS document. This doc is promoted by FRONTEX, EUSC, EMSA, JRC, EMSA and EC (through specific Directorate General), and defines the services that shall cover the border surveillance needs of MSs. The communication channel is the EUROSUR network that is conceived as an information exchange platform.

    In the current paper, the main outcomes of the three projects will be presented with special attention to the different campaigns and activations developed in each of them. The results / conclusions that can be derived from the joint exploitation of the different assets will be presented as well as specific technical improvements in key topics, for instance small ship detection. The results will show that MARISS, NEREIDS, SAGRES will permit progress in:

  • Target detection at sea with independence of sunlight conditions and of any device on board the vessels. Small, non-metallic and fast boats will represent the most challenging targets to detect, but insights into the problem will be provided.
  • Estimation of macro-scale features and target classification by only using EO data
  • Advance EO processing to diminish image artefacts and distortions
  • Discrimination of any other target different than ships within the sea
  • Target tracking by fusing cooperative and non-cooperative (EO) data
  • Constraint-based track reconstruction
  • Detection of anomalous behaviour to support decision making
  • Environmental assessment to locate areas where the probability that certain activities of interest occur is higher
  • Monitoring of specific ports and shore areas
  • Complement the information provided by ship and airborne patrols
  • Integration of oceanic and meteo information in the surveillance system in order to increase the range of constraints to apply when doing track reconstruction

    Indications about the technological configuration of the future maritime surveillance system will be also provided