Airbus to help Navy spot criminals at sea

Airbus has won a 12-month contract with the Royal Navy to provide maritime surveillance, helping to protect the UK’s borders from suspicious vessels.

The aviation company, which is now the world’s biggest, was awarded the contract after successfully completing a proof-of-concept phase.

Airbus will be providing satellite-based surveillance for the UK government’s Joint Maritime Security Centre (JMSC), using optical imaging and radar imaging as well as data from the AIS (Automatic Identification System) onboard vessels.

Airbus will monitor areas of interest in British waters, provide reports on vessels, and pass on intelligence to augment JMSC’s own surveillance and help prevent illegal activities. Under the contract, Airbus will deliver a wide range of surveillance and analytics services to JMSC.

One of these is Vessel Detection Reports based on SAR data analysis, both on an emergency basis to monitor suspicious vessels around the world, and regularly twice a day for general vessel identification and the detection of “dark” vessels in areas of interest. “Dark” vessels are ships travelling with their AIS switched off to evade detection, which is illegal and suggests criminal activity.

Another service Airbus will provide is Defence Site Monitoring, which applies automated algorithms to optical imagery to detect and identify vessels, monitor port activity and raise alerts whenever anything abnormal occurs.

An Airbus spokesperson said the company’s surveillance services will provide JMSC with a better understanding of the activities in UK waters, especially “potentially uncooperative vessels”, and will help the Royal Navy address security challenges more effectively and deploy resources rapidly to intercept threats.