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Friday, July 24, 2020 

The European Maritime Safety Agency’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) services are again being used by the Danish authorities to support the monitoring of ship emissions around the area of the Great Belt.

The RPAS will specifically measure the ships’ sulphur emissions to check compliance with EU rules governing the sulphur content of marine fuel. Measurements will be transmitted in real time to the EMSA RPAS Data Centre and to THETIS EU, which will create alerts to be followed up by the competent authorities.

The deployment of the RPAS from the Danish coast started on 6 July in support of the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DEPA) and is a continuation of previous services in 2018 and 2019.

RPAS provides an effective mean for monitoring compliance with MARPOL Annex VI Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) regulations. The RPAS unit passes through the exhaust gas plume from ships’ stacks and analyses the plume with a dual sniffer system from which the sulphur content in the exhaust is derived. The sulphur content in the fuel used together with images, video, flight path, measurements are transferred in near to real time and stored in the RPAS data centre which is directly linked to THETIS-EU, a central database that inspectors can consult. In case of a possible noncompliant vessel, further control can be prioritised at the next port of call.

As in 2019, the service is provided by a consortium comprising Nordic Unmanned and NORCE Norwegian Research Centre. This year the deployment will be performed by a Schiebel Camcopter S100, a drone with a flight endurance of more than six hours and capability for night operations. The aircraft payload includes the Explicit mini sniffer sensor system for vessel emissions monitoring. The Satcom services to directly connect the site of operation to the RPAS-DC are provided by Viasat.

EMSA’s RPAS services have been developed to assist in maritime surveillance and monitoring operations to support national authorities involved in coast guard functions. This includes: maritime pollution and emissions monitoring; detection of illegal fishing, anti-drug trafficking, and illegal immigration; border surveillance; and search and rescue operations.

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