Martek Drones, a division of Martek Marine, has big plans for the future, starting with their 2-meter long drones and a multi-million euro contract with the European Maritime Safety Agency, for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) services in the maritime environment.

Martek Drones recently won a 10m Euros (~10.5m Dollars) framework deal with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). Martek Marine is a company based in Rotherham, UK, which focuses on solutions to improve safety, performance & welfare on ships, since 1999.

With this 10m euros contract, Martek Drones will put its 2-meter long drones to work. The RPAS can be flown over 50 km from the ground station, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), with instant and continuous video being streamed back to the ground station and Member States. An on-board gas analyser draws samples of air and monitors SOx, NOx and CO2 levels in the surrounding atmosphere of commercial ships' exhausts, to determine possible breaches in EU law on the sulphur content of a ship’s fuel. Apart from the gas analyser, the drones are also equipped with both visible light and infra-red (thermal imaging) cameras, and other sensors.

The plan is to have these drones available to any EU nation at any time, and responding to any request with a crew and two drones to monitor the seas for a minimum of 60 days in each location. The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will relay any request to Martek.

Based in Lisbon, Portugal, EMSA was established for the purpose of ensuring a high, uniform and effective level of maritime safety and prevention of pollution by ships. EMSA provides technical assistance and support to the European Commission and Member States in the development and implementation of EU legislation on maritime safety, pollution by ships and maritime security.

To improve environmental surveillance capabilities, data from new sensors, in particular from Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), are to be incorporated to provide information to Member States. EMSA will organize and provide, as an institutional service provider, pilot RPAS service operations in support of Member States focusing on marine pollution detection & monitoring and emissions monitoring. However, this technology has a multipurpose character and could in an emergency be used for other purposes, if necessary or requested by Member States, the European Commission and other EU agencies.

Martek Marine have developed a team of highly skilled technical experts, experienced pilots and a bespoke maritime unmanned helicopter specifically adapted to suit this application. Development is also underway to incorporate satellite command & control and payload data streaming, so the RPAS can operate in what is known as BRLOS (beyond radio line of sight) over 100 km away. In order to operate effectively in the harsh maritime environment, the RPAS can withstand storm force wind and heavy rain, snow and salt spray.

“We've worked hard and invested big to pioneer the maritime application of drone technology in the last 3 years, explained Paul Luen, Martek Group, CEO. “This EMSA contract allows us to combine our original 'world first' of ship SO2/CO2/NOx monitoring, with our unique drone platform to deliver another world first. We're determined to 'change the world using drones' and this is the first of many applications which we intend to pioneer.”

We have made a real commitment to drone technology and envisage them bringing huge benefits to maritime operations and this tender allowed us to marry this capability with our world leading emissions monitoring pedigree” added Paul Luen.