Sea is no place to hide from big data maritime security

Radar image sees all ships; big data highlights suspicious sailors (e-GEOS)

22 July 2018

Leonardo made a splash at the Farnborough air show with a maritime environment monitoring and protection service called SEonSE – Smart Eyes on the SEas – built on data from several satellite constellations, ships’ Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals, coastal radar, weather and oceanographic data, databases such as shipping registries and a basket of proprietary algorithms. This combination of satellites and big data analytics went online during the airshow. The Italian aerospace industry champion describes its geospatial maritime security platform as “revolutionary”, offering services for monitoring illegal traffic, environmental protection and fighting smuggling and piracy.

SEonSE uses observational data from Italy’s COSMO-SkyMed radar satellite constellation – especially effective in identifying ships at sea, including at night or under cloud – as well as Europe’s Sentinel Earth observing satellites. It also relies on AIS tracking from exactEarth. Ships of 25m or larger must be AIS-equipped, so the signals form a real-time picture of maritime traffic worldwide. But, with other satellite and shore-based observations and historical information on customary behiviour, the system can automatically identify ships engaged in suspicious behaviour. A ship which isn’t broadcasting AIS, or is holding station where it might typically be expected to make headway, may be fishing illegally, preparing to make an at-sea rendezvous to transfer smuggled goods, or could be pirates laying in wait. A ship’s course and speed data might also indicate that a captain who keeps to the departure and arrival schedule expected by home office is, in fact, undertaking unauthorised activity en route.

Farnborough air show visitors were treated to a big-screen demonstration of SEonSE, but the service is accessible on tablet computers or smartphones.

Luigi Pasquali, who co-ordinates Leonardo’s space businesses and heads its Telespazio joint venture with Thales, said SEonSE “fully leverages” the advantages of digital technology to process a huge amount of data “in real time for the protection of people and the maritime environment”. And, he stressed, this capability is built on the knowledge of the industrial group’s leadership “in the development and supply of integrated systems and technologies for maritime domain awareness, and on 25 years in the Earth observation domain.”

The service is to be managed by the Leonardo-Italian space agency (ASI) joint venture e-GEOS, which signed a partnership agreement with exactEarth at the air show. It will be used by the European strategic research programme for naval surveillance and maritime safety OCEAN2020; customers may include coast guards and other enforcement authorities as well as shipping companies.