Airbus has partnered with the Accelerated Capability Environment (ACE), a UK Home Office capability, to successfully demonstrate how Earth observation-based analytics could improve tactical maritime situational awareness.

ACE solves fast-changing, digital and technological challenges facing law enforcement, bringing together expertise and innovation from both industry and academia and rapidly delivering front-line mission impact assessments.

This collaborative project, working with multiple government agencies, provided in depth analysis of satellite imagery availability, enabling Airbus to establish recommendations on how data could be utilised as part of a UK maritime monitoring capability. Similarly, a historical Ship Tracking Study demonstrated how this satellite imagery can help to identify suspected illegal maritime activities such as drug smuggling, illegal immigration and piracy, enhancing remote monitoring capabilities to improve safety at sea.

Utilising Airbus’ 24/7 satellite tasking and analytics services in combination with Automatic Identification System (AIS) data, Vessel Detection Reports have been provided for the identification and classification of ‘dark’ vessels. Landing site analysis on the UK coastline has also been carried out combining a number of datasets including satellite and live meteorological data. This dynamic analytical model can determine the likelihood of suitable landing locations for small vessels/Rigid Inflatable Boats along the coastline, providing critical insight for law enforcement on potential hotspots for illegal activity and help to address security challenges.

Environmental issues have been included in the project including effective modelling of the Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emission volumes over given areas in the English Channel. Oil Slick Detection Reports were also delivered, using SAR satellite data for slick mapping and correlation with vessels and oil rigs considered potential pollution sources and associated with slicks.

Paul Russell, Head of UK Programmes, Intelligence, said, “Monitoring our open waters and coastlines requires extensive physical resources. During the project, we have worked quickly to demonstrate cost-effective analytics services,  applied to our own Airbus satellite imagery and coverage, providing rapid and accurate insights from space. We can now offer our law enforcement and border surveillance agencies widened, faster and more precise situational awareness”. Following the successful delivery and demonstration of these maritime applications, Airbus looks forward to working closely with UK Government departments to strengthen relationships and help define operational service requirements for improved satellite-based maritime surveillance in a continuously changing and evolving world.