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.