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NATO and INFORE join forces to advance the state-of-the-art in Maritime Situational Awareness

Thousands of vessels cross EU waters and hundreds enter into EU ports every day, generating an overwhelming amount of tracking data from many different types of sources to detect, track and classify objects at sea, while improving perception of the overall maritime environment. Integration and processing of huge amounts of data is a multidimensional challenge for Big Data analysts. Detecting steadily changing illusive behaviors at sea is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and calls for advanced automatic and adaptive tools to discover useful information from the data. In this background, INFORE (Interactive Extreme-scale Analytics and Forecasting) MarineTraffic (MT), a European Commission-funded research project is working closely with the NATO STO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) to develop solutions that can effectively address integration and processing challenges of maritime Big Data. Through this project, CMRE and MT aim to enhance Maritime Situational Awareness (MSA).

How will it work?

The maritime team will obtain data of ‘areas of interest’ from existing maritime surveillance systems (such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Sentinel-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite imagery), with local views obtained from autonomous maritime vessels acting as on-site sensing devices. A new distributed network of sensorized autonomous surface robots developed by CMRE will be used for improving the vessel detection and localization, and the local view of the INFORE system. These robots named WaveGliders will navigate through the area of inspection and send data to others, collaborating robots as well as to the control centre of CMRE that coordinates the motion of robots. Also, its fixed thermal camera in the area of inspection and on-board the vessels will send data that can be fused with the acoustic, AIS and satellite data. The support of High-Performance Computing infrastructures required for this project will be provided by the INFORE partner Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (BSC).

What will NATO and INFORE achieve?

The objective of this collaboration is to extract valuable insights from the incoming data forecasting critical events of interest and proactively facilitate, and ultimately improve, Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. To ensure scalability, rundowns of data using the Synapsis Data Engine (SDE) component that has been developed in INFORE were created. The SDE maintains only the critical parts of the vessel tracks that are given as input and produces simplified, more lightweight tracks. Then, these tracks are fed to the Maritime Event Detector that is capable of detecting simple maritime events (vessels in proximity, vessels in shallow waters, vessel(s) deviating from common routes, vessel(s) out of AIS coverage etc.) as well as complex events (bunkering, fishing, transhipment, etc.) that could indicate abnormalities in the navigation of vessels that could impact maritime security and safety of navigation. The Complex Event Forecasting (CEF) of INFORE is able to forecast maritime events before they even happen, saving valuable time for taking proper actions for the prevention of critical events. Next year NATO and INFORE plan to carry out a sea trial experiment in the premises of CMRE in La Spezia. In this experiment, all surveillance facilities will be used and data will be fused, and analysed using the INFORE platform in real-time.

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