Danish shipping authorities have adopted a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), which uses drones to detect emissions levels from ships.
The maritime emissions drone system, developed by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), is to be deployed along the Great Belt region where large tankers travel to and from the Baltic Sea. UAS Skeldar V-200 drones equipped with sulphur gas sensors, or “sniffers”, capable of detecting the sulphur emissions of individual vessels, will fly into ships’ exhaust plumes and transmit the resulting emissions data directly to the relevant authorities in Denmark. Where ships are found to have breached the EU’s maritime emissions regulations, the offence will be reported in THETIS-EU, EMSA’s port control information system.
The implementation of RPAS monitoring is expected to boost enforcement of the EU Sulphur Directive, which limits passenger vessels to fuels with a maximum sulphur content of 1.5 per cent. Since the Directive capped sulphur emissions from shipping, emissions around control regions have fallen by more than 50 per cent; with an average fuel compliance rate of 93 per cent. Enforcement of the Directive in Denmark is the duty of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency with the support of the Danish Maritime Authority, which shores up the agency’s work by conducting in-port ship inspections.
Along with the Fuel Sulphur Content sniffer system, the maritime emissions drone will be equipped with cameras capable of photographing vessels during daytime and at night; as well as an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver to enable the RPAS to identify and track offending ships. Authorities will be able to track the flight path of the drone in real time using EMSA’s RPAS data centre, which provides flight details, images, video and measurement data. EMSA has developed RPAS solutions to assist in maritime surveillance operations in a number of fields, including detection and prevention of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, drug trafficking and illegal immigration.