For the first time, Aeolus – an innovative maritime monitoring & surveillance platform – has been successfully tested at sea.
Aeolus will enhance the monitoring and surveillance capabilities of ships by increasing how far key systems such as radar, cameras and radio detection systems can see and operate effectively. Current sensors installed on the mast of a ship can typically “see” about 14 km (8 nautical miles), at which point the curvature of the earth begins to hide objects over the horizon.
By increasing the height of monitoring systems above the sea surface, the line of sight is extended and the area around a ship that can be monitored is significantly increased. The Aeolus platform is designed to operate at altitudes of up to 150m above a ship resulting in an increased surveillance area that is ten times what can be covered by shipboard systems – circa 4,800km2 versus 800km2 for sensors on a ship’s mast.
This additional visibility improves awareness of what is around a ship and contributes to increased navigation safety, vessel security and enables enhanced voyage and operations planning that leads to benefits that include reductions in fuel consumption and associated harmful environmental emissions such as carbon and nitrous oxides.
Aeolus comprises a compact, lightweight, low power and robust “pod” that houses a suite of sensors and monitoring systems. What makes Aeolus innovative is the effective combination of the significantly increased monitoring and surveillance area achieved for a key set of sensors into a small, lightweight, low powered platform that represents a very cost effective solution for end users. End users are expected to include navies, coastguards, ship owners, coastal local authorities and marine energy, environmental and science organisations.
The Aeolus project team comprises a wide, cross-sectoral collaboration of research centres, funding bodies, and the Irish Defence Forces. This project team conducted test flights of version 3.5 of the Aeolus platform on September 21st off the South Coast. For the test flights the Aeolus platform was flown off LE Eithne under the command of Captain Brian Fitzgerald.
The platform was raised above the vessel using a Helikite – a hybrid helium balloon and kite that is being used during Aeolus’ development. During the trials, the system was successfully launched, flown to a height of 150m, underwent numerous tests and was safely recovered back onto the vessel.
While Aeolus is engineered to endure harsh weather conditions, the weather on the day was good with light to moderate south westerly winds and flight operations went very smoothly due to the professionalism of the LE Eithne crew and the Aeolus flight team from CIT, UL and the Irish Navy, and due to the support of Naval Operations Command, the Irish Aviation Authority and Cork Airport Air Traffic Control.
The Aeolus project is a collaboration between the Nimbus Centre (Cork Institute of Technology), the HALPIN Centre for Research & Innovation (National Maritime College of Ireland, Cork Institute of Technology), the Mobile & Marine Robotics Research Centre (University of Limerick) and the Irish Defence Forces.
Aeolus is funded by Enterprise Ireland and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.