CNES' CLS and TEKEVER sign contract with EMSA for maritime surveillance via unmanned aerial vehicles
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has awarded a new contract to CLS, a French Space Agency subsidiary, and TEKEVER, a European drone manufacturer, for remotely piloted aircraft surveillance of European waters.
Through a four-year contract with maximum budget of €30 million, EMSA is replacing a previous contract signed in 2018 for flights beyond visual line of sight by adding a new rescue capability: CLS and TEKEVER have added a new device to the maritime patrol version of their remotely piloted aircraft, able to deploy rescue boats for up to eight people. The device also features artificial intelligence that calculates the best time to release the lifeboat to get as close as possible to the ship or person in distress.
EMSA is facilitating increased collaboration between European countries by enabling the deployment of regional operations and in doing so enhancing the effectiveness of surveillance over European waters.
The collaboration between CLS-TEKEVER consortium (named REACT) and EMSA is already rooted in a strong history through several drone operations since 2018. Totaling no less than 1200 flight hours on the counter and nearly 250 missions over four years.
These flights have established the strong utility of remotely piloted aircraft for maritime surveillance and safety in European waters, environmental protection (detection of oil pollution, potential identification of polluters, and support for the fight against illegal dumping), fisheries control, the fight against illegal fishing and general maritime law enforcement.
A new rescue capability
Deploying a boat of this size by remotely piloted aircraft is a real first in Europe. This new capability has been fully demonstrated during search and rescue exercises. The aircraft's onboard sensors allow the detection of survivors, which is the starting point for calculating the best drop point without any human intervention. The onboard AI allows the deployment of the liferaft at a distance close enough, but certain enough to optimize the chances of rescue.
"CLS has helped save more than 50,000 lives in over 30 years of activity through our contract to operate the French COSPASSARSAT MCC Mission Control Center)," said Nadia Maaref, Director of Maritime Security at CLS. "This experience has led us to propose to EMSA a support to the rescue missions of the coast guards of the Member States.
"Since 2017, we have been using our remotely piloted aircrafts (RPAS) in missions commissioned by many European actors. When it comes to fighting illegal fishing, trafficking or pollution, RPAS are an essential complementary tool to the satellite services we provide to maritime authorities. With this new capability, our UAVs complete the arsenal of safety at sea that we offer. We are very proud to serve a European body like EMSA, which is at the cutting edge of technology. This renewed trust is a guarantee of the state-of-the-art of our solutions and of the reliability of our operations."
“We’ve consistently and successfully tested the TEKEVER AR5’s new Lifesaver capability, by deploying life rafts with very high precision in a fully automated process. This new capability, that will already be available in upcoming contracts, allows us to provide a first response in emergency situations. For the first time, and beyond detecting people in distress, we can now immediately do something to help them. This directly supports our mission of making the sea safer,” said Ricardo Mendes, TEKEVER CEO.