Norwegian drone technology to monitor the coasts of Europe

A number of countries will benefit from the technology, which will help monitor oil spills and ensure safer and more efficient operations.

Published Mar 7, 2019
Drone Olje Overvaking
Over the next four years, NORCE will deliver decision support tools for drones to the EU. Drone technology will provide crew aboard coast guard vessels along Europe’s coasts a better overview, and ensure safer and more efficient operations. The system is being tested in Tromsø.

The Norwegian Coastal Administration’s oil spill response vessel “OV Bøkfjord” is located in Tromsø, not far from the maritime safety centre Arcos Nord at Tromsøya.

A drone pilot is flying a small quadcopter called the Lockheed Martin Indago from the quayside. The drone is equipped with advanced surveillance and communication equipment and is streaming a live video of an oil spill out at sea to an onshore operations room.

Information from the drone provides operations management with a completely different overview of the extent of the oil spill, much more than would be possible through verbal information received from the bridge of a ship.

Those involved in the operation can study on-screen georeferenced data that provide an overall picture of the scale of the oil spill, and then communicate what they want the drone to take a closer look at. The data stream is time-coded and saved so that details can be analysed later on.

A basis for good decision-making

“There are tens of thousands of drone operators in Europe. However, we can deliver the unique decision support tool called Nlive, which indexes, goereferences and presents data from the drone in real-time”, says Norut’s head of flight operations, Nils Håheim-Saers.

Fortunately, this cold and windy day in February is just an exercise. It was an exercise to show the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) that they made the right choice when they chose Nordic Unmanned in Sandnes and Norut in Tromsø to deliver drone technology to the EU’s coast guard fleet.

The exercise in Tromsø confirmed that the systems worked together as they were designed to, and that data was presented correctly. A team from Nordic Unmanned and NORUT have already visited Brest in France to install the equipment on the first of ten vessels that the European Maritime Safety Agency uses to monitor oil spills.

Monitoring oil spills, fisheries and national borders

Nordic Unmanned and NORCE will deliver real-time data streaming from drones that are placed on board the EU’s oil spill response, fisheries and border patrol vessels. The vessels are stationed along the entire coast of Europe.

The Nlive decision support tool was developed by the research community based in Tromsø. Both communication systems and data streaming have been extensively tested in various projects in harsh Arctic conditions.

Next stop will be the coasts of Europe.

Technology developed in Norway

A number of countries will benefit from the technology developed along the northern coast of Norway. During the course of 2019, Nordic Unmanned will become a drone operator in all of the EU’s coastal member states. The total deliveries from Norway to the European Maritime Safety Agency amount to NOK 25 million over a four year period.

Emsa Kart
The map shows where the European Maritime Safety Agency’s coast guard vessels are stationed. (Illustration: EMSA.)

“A competitive Norwegian drone company chooses Northern Norwegian drone technology for assignments throughout Europe”, concludes Nils Håheim-Saers.

Rune Storvold, head of the drones and autonomous systems department at NORCE, adds:

“Investment in research and technology development means that Norwegian companies are winning the competition for demanding assignments beyond our national borders. It shows that long-term improvement and investment regarding technology development pays off.

“We must continue to be innovative and utilise our technological and geographical advantages regarding drone technology”, concludes Storvold.

Watch the video from a previous oil spill exercise: Oil spill exercise monitored by drones

See how Nlive works: Real-time detection of sea ice and ice bergs using drones