The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has contracted six satellite communication (satcom) service providers for its maritime surveillance operations by remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPASs). The contracts are intended to provide fast and effective communications both to the Agency’s RPAS service providers as well as indirectly to the maritime authorities using the RPAS services.

With these new capabilities, EMSA will have access to a large pool of satellites to guarantee accessible, secure and autonomous satellite communication services not just for this generation of RPAS services but also for the next.

The new framework contracts will cover three different service categories:

  • satellite services for beyond radio-line-of-sight communications;
  • satellite connectivity services for land-to-land communications; and,
  • satellite services for ship-based RPAS operations.

Also read: EMSA provides input to EU naval missions that combat piracy and enforce arms embargo

Satcom contracts

Framework contracts for RPAS beyond radio-line-of-sight communications have been signed with SES Techcom for two different service level categories: 2 Mbps and 5 Mbps in the return link. These services are intended to provide high performance wideband satellite capacity for high data rate applications, including in particular the transmission of simultaneous sensor streams, delivery of high-resolution image/video and a command and control link from the RPAS to the shore.

EMSA has also signed framework contracts for satellite connectivity services for land-to-land communication services with: Viasat Netherlands, Telespazio France and SES Techcom as well as framework contracts for satellite connectivity services for ship-based operations with SES Techcom and Telespazio France. The wideband satellite internet connection under these contracts, up to 10 Mbps, will be used to stream the payload data to the RPAS Data Centre allowing end users to follow the RPAS operations remotely.

The contracted services will encompass the service set-up, equipment leasing and related maintenance, as well as all the necessary space and ground segment infrastructure.

Also read: Drone used to monitor ships’ sulphur emissions in the Strait of Gibraltar

EMSA RPAS services

Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) services are offered free to all EU member states by EMSA. They have been developed to assist in maritime surveillance operations and ship emission monitoring, and can operate in all seas surrounding the European Union. RPAS services can provide support to traditional coast guard functions, including search and rescue and pollution prevention and response.

The services are offered to member states individually and as part of EMSA’s regional RPAS strategy, which allows multiple coast guard functions in several EU member states to be supported by one or more RPAS services. Further expansion of RPAS regionally is planned in 2022.

Picture: One of the aircraft used by EMSA to measure ships’ emissions is a Camcopter S100, under contract to EMSA from the consortium of Nordic Unmanned, Norce and UMS Skeldar (photo by Nordic Unmanned).