Royal Danish Navy and EMSA Expand North Sea Surveillance with Quadcopter

Unique Quadcopter adds new features to vessel monitoring off Denmark (EMSA)

Published May 10, 2024 12:56 PM by The Maritime Executive


A four-month program is underway in the North Sea to expand monitoring and surveillance operations. The program is being conducted by the Royal Danish Navy and Danish Customs in cooperation with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) which provides unique airborne capabilities.

During the deployment, the remote craft will carry out maritime surveillance tasks in the busy waters around the north coast of Denmark. The program will provide information on potential oil spills and discharges at sea the partners report. Environmental monitoring is a key aspect of this service. They report the service is complementing the CleanSeaNet satellite-based oil spill and vessel detection service provided by EMSA.

In the past for similar monitoring programs, EMSA has provided drones that are remotely operated. This year, the program is using a new Hybrid Quadcopter for the remotely piloted aircraft system delivered by EMSA through the contractor Nordic Unmanned. It is the first time this model has been deployed in an EMSA remote monitoring operation with the organizations reporting it will provide added capabilities. 

The Aerosonde Hybrid Quadcopter that is being employed has both fixed wing, enabling it to cover long distances, and four propellers, providing it with vertical take-off and landing capabilities. They report the craft can take off and land vertically, like a helicopter but has the same range as the fixed-wing version. Nordic Unlimited highlights that it is runway-independent.

With more than seven hours of endurance and a radio range of 140 km (86 miles) along the coastline, based on a ground relay station, it can carry out extensive maritime surveillance to support the Royal Danish Navy. The RPAS has infrared and optical cameras and is also equipped with an embedded automatic maritime scanning sensor. The craft weighs approximately 100 lbs. with a payload capacity of approximately 15 lbs.

The European Maritime Safety Agency serves the EU’s maritime interests for a safe, secure, green, and competitive maritime sector. Launched several years ago, its Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) services are offered free to all EU member states to assist in maritime surveillance operations including ship emission monitoring. It can also be used to provide support to traditional coast guard functions, including search and rescue and pollution prevention and response.