April 19, 2021No Comments

The Shipping Lab Project

A step ahead to a more secure, reliable, and independent georeferencing system for seamless maritime navigation and precise docking.

A crucial challenge in ship control is to accurately determine the position and movement of a ship.  While GNSS systems provide a ubiquitous and free source of relatively accurate position, it exposes the navigation to numerous vulnerabilities, some of which are just technical downside, but others open doors for malevolent exploitation. While GNSS ranks high inaccessibility, it loses on robustness if relied upon as a sole source of positioning. To overcome this weakness in critical applications, GNSS must be used in conjunction with other positioning methods. Most of the methods used today however suffer from limited availability (in a spatial sense) but also depend on manual processes or external infrastructure, such as reflectors or beacons, in relation to which a position is derived.

The use of ship-based drones could provide a way to overcome the above-mentioned problems. Georeferenced coordinate data is a safe way to navigate a ship and can be used both in cases where other navigation information is missing due to loss of GPS or in case of system failure. Using video analytics on drone generated videos and pictures, it will be possible for the drone to not only provide a real-time overview of the surroundings of the ship, but also use predetermined points in the area to precisely calculate where the ship is located and how it moves in reference to known landmarks.

Solution by Upteko

Upteko has already been involved with developing onboard drone systems supporting ships in seamless navigation and precise docking into harbours. This project will build on this development and explore concepts for reliable independent georeferencing or positioning to secure future navigation.  

The onboard drone system will for the demonstration case be further developed and integrated with an existing system for smart docking and will be installed on one of the DFDS ships for tests.

The drone will fly over the ship when in confined waters and when entering harbour, obtaining crucial precision points data from recognition of known landmarks in the surroundings, thereby generating the vessel's absolute position. The ship’s navigation and position control system will receive the absolute position in a standardized format. This will allow the position to be blended into and used as any other existing position source for the navigation system.

Significance of the project

  • Ease of integration: No major technical modifications are needed for the ship’s navigation system side to process this additional information 
  • High accuracy: The position accuracy would be comparable to GNSS or better, ensuring practical usability of the same.
  • Better reliability: The position would be available in the same quality by two different means, thus the loss of a single position source would not endanger the functioning of higher-level control systems. 
  • Secured functionality: The position would be derived in a way that is immune to malevolent disturbances such as spoofing or jamming, thus would maintain the same function also in a for whatever reasons GNSS-denied environment. 
  • Compact solution: All the above would be achieved with a self-contained shipboard system that does not require any external infrastructure to be installed, such as reflectors or transponders.

April 12, 2021No Comments

Preventing maritime challenges with Applications by Upteko.

Preventing maritime challenges

The maritime industry has always dealt with critical situations and has been facing many challenges operating in harsh marine environments throughout the years. The maritime operation is colossal, expensive, and involved in many complications. While it supports a major portion of global trading and shipping, it also entails many unforeseen crises and immense risks. Such crises and risks not only affect the maritime companies and the people directly involved in the operation but also influences the global economy substantially.
A number of seafarers lose their lives every year due to ship collisions, fires, drowning, pirates attacks, and other accidents. Critical weather conditions and lack of control over the huge off-shore perimeter are some of the reasons behind these crises.

Some of the major Maritime crises in the last 30 days –

April 5, 2021 - 27 people were killed in Bangladesh after a huge cargo ship had collided with a small passenger ferry in the Padma river.
March 23, 2021 - A massive container ship from EverGreen corporation was stuck diagonally at the Suez Canal resulting in huge delays and significant loss to the global economy.
April 10, 2021 – 13 crew of a cargo ship encountered high life-risk after being collided with a huge container ship in China.
April 5, 2021 – 11 containers were caught on fire and 35 more were affected on cargo ship on the Andaman Sea resulting in huge losses to the shipping company and industrial goods.
April 5, 2021 – 12 crew members had to jump off a Dutch cargo ship into heavy seas off the coast of Norway highly risking their lives.
pirate group active in Gulf of Guinea Recent Pirate Attacks, 2021 - The pirate attack is one of the most challenging factors in the maritime sector.
Check the latest news and information on the most recent pirate attacks of 2021.
https://icc-ccs.org/index.php/piracy-reporting-centre/live-piracy-report
https://www.maritime-executive.com/piracy-news

How Applications by Upteko can prevent these Maritime Challenges.

Upteko has developed a multi-purpose end-to-end automated drone system that can be used to control and solve critical maritime challenges and in some cases prevent the crises in the first place.

Fire Hazard Inspection.

Current procedures for preventing ship fires include extinguishers, rules forbidding smoking onboard, and visual inspection. Crews need to patrol and check for a smoke every 30 minutes in all ship areas. This method is not accurate at detecting container fires, and even when detected, important time is spent on finding where the fire originated from.

Statistics show a fire takes place on a ship every 60 days, and this has increased to every 30 days in recent years.

Upteko has created beacons for the drone to position itself over the ship during situational awareness and docking. With the push of more beacons for larger ships and one beacon for smaller ships, the drone will position itself over the beacon and use the thermal sensor to make a heat map of the ship. If any abnormal heat signatures are present, the system will give an alarm to the bridge, that an area is hotter than what it is normally. It is then possible to see on the live heatmap, where the heat is located so an inspection can be made in the correct area.

The Docking Application

Ship docking is done with assistance from either the captain's assistant or a local port pilot. It can often be done with the use of tugboats and ropes and would take up to 1-2 hours for larger ships. in some cases, other ships have been landed and the docking situation has changed drastically in the port, and assessment from the ground does not provide sufficient overview to avoid collisions. The lack of aerial overview is a problem for large ships in busy ports. Any contact between the ship and other objects can result in hull damage, damage to already docked ships, and man overboard situations which as stated above, is hard to detect and costly to fix. Whilst this is a problem for the ship itself, there is an added risk of damaging third-party property in the area, as other ships or the infrastructure in the port. This is a large liability for ship owners and manifests itself in the expensive insurance premiums designed to cover such eventualities.

The Docking application by Upteko is primarily designed to provide assistance for sophisticated docking but the opportunities of Upteko’s applications are endless. The Docking application gives an option to the captain and the crew to choose the view of the ship they want helping them to pan through the docking process precisely without any collisions.

Docking Application
Docking Application with the option to choose the view of the ship.

High-definition thermographic cameras along with infrared sensors make this entire system work not only during daytime but also in very low lighting conditions at night-time.

Night-time footage being taken by the drone in very low lighting conditions with a thermographic camera and infrared sensor.

However, the docking application can also be used in many other scenarios such as navigating through narrow passages heavily trafficked with small boats and ferries.

Precise distance measurement helps smooth navigation through narrow and critical situations.

Docking application by Upteko assisting precise navigation by measuring the distance from other objects.

A high definition camera installed into the drone takes continuous footage of the ship, when required, which is then processed through the Semantic Segmentation Network integrated into the system. Semantic Segmentation Network helps to segment and identify different solid objects around the ship. A very precise distance of these objects is then measured by Ground Sampling Distance(GSD) technique which is then feed in real-time to the Captain, crew member of the ship, and others involved in the navigation process.

Semantic Segmentation and GSD measuring the precise distance of the ship from other solid objects.

Search and Rescue.

Man overboard detected by Search and Rescue Application

In most Man Over-Board (MOB) scenarios, a person becomes unconscious in water after only a few minutes. Ships need a system to alert rescue crews seconds after a MOB situation occurs; a way for the coordinates of the person to be sent, a flotation device, and a lifeboat to the exact geolocation. This requires data beyond the line of sight.

Time is the most critical element in Search and Rescue operations for drowning incidents. The submersion time for people who survive intact or with mild neurological damage is less than 5 minutes (median), whereas the average for non-surviving victims is 16 minutes.    

The likelihood of survival is very low in general for submersion over 10 minutes. This drastically improves with a flotation device.    

A victim has an 80% higher survival chance, and a survival time of 2-4 hours (18x higher). Ship cruise speed is 18-20 knots (10 m/s), rescuers have a window of less than a minute to find and rescue a man overboard if the alert was raised when the person fell overboard.

Upteko’ Search and Rescue application calculate the position of people falling overboard. It has an application that is a standard for its multipurpose drone. The Charging station of the drone is connected to the AIS signal of the ship. In this way, it knows the speed of the ship, the direction of the wind, the underwater current, and the sailing path of the ship.   

With this information, the direction of a MOB (man overboard) can be calculated, and how many centimeters this person would move in any direction per second.   

With a short interaction with the system's computer from anyone with access to it, a command is given to the drone with a push of a button, and the drone takes off and activates the RGB and the thermal sensor.

The drone flies in the direction of the MOB and the thermal sensor with AI will detect the hotter pixels in the image and send the exact location back to the bridge, so a safety boat can be sent directly to the victim. this is especially an advantage at night where the MOB is most likely not visible in line of sight.

Perimeter Control.

Pirates use small ships and attack large commercial ships at night. The board ships and take the crew and contents hostage. There are no mobile long-range detection tools with aerial insight to give the crew information about nearby pirates. Ship captains, therefore, avoid sailing past known danger zones (East Coast of Africa).

The total cost of piracy to the shipping industry, from insurance and time lost, is estimated at over €6B/year.

The Perimeter Control application by Upteko is designed to allow any member of the crew to investigate surrounding vessels approaching the ship. Within the drone system, a built-in feature is added to allows a crew member with no prior drone experience, to operate and control the aerial camera in any direction. The Perimeter Control application not only helps the crew to detect pirate attacks but also helps to analyze a critical situation like a thunderstorm in advance and therefore be prepared to manage the upcoming critical situation.

Visit www.upteko.com for more information.

April 7, 2021No Comments

The Suez Canal Crisis – It’s time to prevent.

After almost a week of painstaking efforts the 400-meter long cargo ship, Ever Given is now freed from the Suez Canal clearing the way for dozens of ships carrying cargo worth billions. These ships were either stuck in traffic or planning to reroute resulting in huge delays and significant loss to the global economy.

Preventing maritime challenges like Suez canal crisis
Preventing Maritime Crisis with Applications by Upteko.

Even though the whole world has taken a breath of relief, the 6 days long blockage of the massive Ever Given has left a very significant disruption in the international trade and global supply chain which can last longer than it is expected even after the incident is over now.

It's worth mentioning that Suez Canal connecting Mediterranean to the Red Sea is one of the busiest channels of world’s shipments, allowing 12% of the global trade take the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe. The blockage of the massive vessel has already caused huge loss of an estimated total of $54 billion to the global economy and is expected to continue its impact over several weeks from now. Data and analytics experts have estimated that while Europe will be major region to feel the strongest impact due to this incident, Asia on the other hand will be impacted by long delays in shipments from Europe.

Industries that will be impacted the most are Grocery, Hardware, Automobile, Pharmaceutical, Semiconductors, Warehousing and Storage, Trucking and Sports Goods. To specifically mention the countries, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Austria would be impacted due to the crisis.

Preventing challenges like Suez Canal Crisis with Applications by Upteko.

While the damage is already done, it’s time to prevent such incidents to happen in the future. With a better view of the position of the ship probably an aerial view could have prevented the ship to get stuck in the first place. Technological advancements have enabled UAS to provide assistance to massive ships to navigate through such narrow channels without any hassles. Upteko has developed a multi-purpose end-to-end automated drone system that enables the captain and other crew members to have a clear aerial view of any part of the ship which will help them to navigate the ship smoothly in such narrow and critical situations just with the push of a button.

Precise distance measurement helps smooth navigation through narrow and critical situations.

Machine learning integrated with the system helps to measure the precise distance between the ship and other objects and avoid collisions.

Docking application by Upteko
Docking application by Upteko assisting precise navigation by measuring the distance from other objects.

A high definition camera installed into the drone takes continuous footage of the ship, when required, which is then processed through the Semantic Segmentation Network integrated into the system. Semantic Segmentation Network helps to segment and identify different solid objects around the ship. A very precise distance of these objects is then measured by Ground Sampling Distance(GSD) technique which is then feed in real-time to the Captain, crew member of the ship, and others involved in the navigation process.

Refer to the Q&A session on Semantic Segmentation Network here and Ground Sampling Distance(GSD) here for more info.

Semantic Segmentation Network feed.
Semantic Segmentation and GSD measuring the precise distance of the ship from other solid objects.

The Docking Application

The Docking application by Upteko is primarily designed to provide assistance for sophisticated docking but the opportunities of Upteko’s applications are endless. The Docking application gives an option to the captain and the crew to choose the view of the ship they want helping them to pan through the docking process precisely without any collisions. However, the docking application can also be used in many other scenarios such as navigating through narrow passages like the Suez Canal.

Docking Application
Docking Application with option to choose the view of the ship.

High-definition thermographic cameras along with infrared sensors make this entire system work not only during daytime but also in very low lighting conditions at night-time.

Night time footage
Night-time footage being taken by the drone in very low lighting conditions with a thermographic camera and infrared sensor.

An automated drone system of this level will not only assist the maritime sector in day-to-day operation but also will protect and prevent unforeseen challenges like the Suez Canal Crisis and help save millions of dollars and time for the global economy.

Visit www.upteko.com for more info.

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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 876557

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