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European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)



In areas of dense maritime traffic, ship-generated emissions into the atmosphere can be substantial – including sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon dioxide (CO2) and particulate matter (PM). These are harmful both to the local population and the environment.

In the European Union (EU), SOx emissions from ships are regulated by Directive (EU) 2016/802, known as the Sulphur Directive. Monitoring the emissions from a ship’s smokestack by UAVs supports the enforcement of the Directive with information provided being shared among the relevant authorities via the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) operated THETIS platform.

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EMSA was offering a framework contract over two to four years for Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS) Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Services for Emissions Monitoring and Maritime Surveillance on an emergency basis.

Potential areas of operation included all sea areas surrounding the EU with an EU or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) country, or if requested by governmental users, deployment could be extended outside EU adjacent seas.

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In 2018, UMS SKELDAR were awarded the contract which represented our first flagship deal in the civilian sector. UMS supplied two SKELDAR V-200 platforms to UAV specialist operator, Nordic Unmanned, who then provided UAV-based services together with ourselves and Norut Northern Research Institute via EMSA to users of the EU member states.

As the emissions monitoring operations were foreseen as multipurpose, the SKELDAR V-200s could also be used on an emergency basis for a range of other Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) services including border control, search and rescue, pollution monitoring, detection of illegal fishing, and drug/people traffic surveillance.

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Denmark was the first country to deploy EMSA’s services for emissions monitoring and maritime surveillance. Beginning in April 2019, the SKELDAR V-200 was deployed by the Danish authorities to monitor ship emissions around the area of the Great Belt where many large tankers transit on their way to and from the Baltic Sea.

The SKELDAR V-200 was fitted with daylight and infrared cameras and a Fuel Sulphur Content dual sniffer system capable of measuring individual ship’s sulphur emissions. By flying in the plume of the ship, the platform could estimate the amount of sulphur in the fuel and check compliance with EU rules. This data was transferred immediately to the Danish authorities for follow-up, who would then report to the THETIS-EU if the ship was not complying with the legal requirements of the European Emission Control Area (ECA). This real-time monitoring and reporting enabled the EU member states to enforce sanctions on unlawful behaviour.

The SKELDAR V-200’s flights in the Danish phase of the programme also represented the first UAV weighing more than 150kg to achieve a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) civil aviation permit under the recently published new EU directives (SORA). This meant that the platform was able to fly further out to sea to complete the emissions monitoring activities, as well as fulfil other necessary maritime-based tasks.

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