Finland is becoming the latest country to deploy remotely operated drones to support marine safety and security operations as part of its coast guard operations along its Baltic coastline. The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), operated by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), was developed to assist in maritime surveillance operations and ship emission monitoring.
The Finnish Border Guard will be using EMSA’s remotely piloted aircraft services from its base at Hanko, Finland to provide increased situational awareness for an array of different operational tasks in areas such as search and rescue, maritime safety and security, customs and border control, environmental protection and general law enforcement at sea.
According to EMSA, modern surveillance technology is becoming an important tool for governments working in the maritime domain. The Finnish Border Guard intends to make the most of EMSA’s remotely piloted aircraft, both directly and in cooperation with other national authorities. While the flights will be performed in Finnish airspace, mission planning, and data are also being coordinated and shared with both Sweden and Estonia. As part of EMSA’s regional RPAS service, this collaboration will allow the countries involved to create a common maritime picture and where appropriate to respond in close coordination.
The aircraft being used is a CAMCOPTER S100 model and it is under contract to EMSA from Schiebel Aircraft GmbH. It has several features making it suitable for this service, including the ability to take off and land from an area smaller than 5m x 5m, flight endurance of over six hours, and a range of more than 60 miles. Information is gathered on board from optical and infrared cameras as well as from an AIS receiver and an automated maritime surface search sensor for detecting targets at sea.
RPAS services can provide support to traditional coast guard functions, including search and rescue and pollution prevention and response. EMSA said that further expansion of RPAS is planned regionally in 2021 and 2022.
Finland joins other countries including Estonia, Lithuania, and Romania which all recently participated in the EMSA program. The port authority in Antwerp used the RPSA to support their day-to-day monitoring of port operations and to provide a rapid response to pollution incidents in the port area. Specially outfitted “sniffer drones” were also used by Danish and French authorities to support the monitoring of ship emissions to ensure compliance with the EU’s low sulfur emissions regulations.