The need for such a solution comes in particular from the institutional market (but it is not limited to) requesting a technological support to manage migration flux aspects, with particular attention to crisis in the Mediterranean Sea: Europe needs to balances efforts to assist people in need with efforts to secure its borders.

On the basis of the above scenario, the industrial composition of the SARA consortium has been contacted by Italian Coast Guard two years ago in order to provide a technological contribution supporting vessels to detect people lost in the sea, especially during the hours of darkness.

According to the above request, SARA solution is conceived to build up a semi-automatic system using Earth Observation data to preliminary detect suspect pontoons’ trajectories (Surveillance) and supporting SAR operations based upon

a deployable RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) which is tightly coupled with a ship architecture through a cable (tethered flight): as soon as its function is needed, the aircraft flies from its home (a dedicated hangar on the top of the ship), and becomes a “virtual pylon” which elevates a VIS-TIR sensor (Visual Spectrum and Thermal Infrared); captured images are processed in real time by a local computer. Both RPAS and hangar are equipped with 2 high accuracy EGNSS receivers (i.e. Galileo ready) in order to provide the relative positioning between the hangar and the RPAS hovering on the target.

On this context, EGNSS represents an essential technology ensuring autonomous operations in a reliable manner guaranteeing provision of distance and bearing from ship to survivors and the protection of the extensible cable against mechanical stress

System Concept

In this section the System concept is presented with deep insight to Search and Rescue (SAR) application domain, currently representing the main envisaged market segment; however, it is noteworthy that minor arrangements in the concept described herein below shall allow to reach also other markets. Further details are reported in the Preliminary Business plan and in section 2.1

The original necessity for SARA product comes from issues related to Search and Rescue (SAR) operations encountered by personnel of Coast Guard during their save and rescue missions, which are concentrated in detecting people lost in the sea during their attempt to reach Italian coasts, especially during night.

Coast Guard is allowed to be helped by helicopters equipped with thermal cameras only during daylight time, because flight is forbidden for flying personnel during night hours.

SARA innovative approach solves this main problem, because the ship is equipped with a thermal camera boarded on a semi-automatic and tethered RPAS, able to operate in standalone mode up to 100 meters above the ship, with minor ground control workload. This operational approach is possible thanks to EGNSS technology providing accurate feedback about the RPAS and the hangar baseline, making the solution more reliable.

This project has received funding from the European GNSS Agency (grant agreement No 776099),
under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme GALILEO-3-2017.