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With the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) 2020 regulations now in effect there are now numerous questions on how best to regulate the new rules.

One solution could be the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), or drones, to monitor ship emissions.

This is one approach being offered by UMS Skeldar which has already been exploring such operations with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the Danish Authorities.

According to David Willems, director of business development at UMS Skeldar, the goal would be to detect the emissions, send the data back to the operations center at the port and prevent non-compliant vessels from entering the harbor all together.

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Speaking about the EMSA project he said, “we have proven we can do this with drones”.

Essentially the unmanned vehicle flies behind the ship, making two of three passes to collect the data via a specialized payload. The RPAS gas sensor, known as a sniffer, which can measure an individual ship’s sulphur emissions.

The RPAS in use with the EMSA is the UAS Skeldar V-200 and the service is being used by the Danish authorities.

The V-200 has an endurance of up to five hours and a data link range of up to 200km. Willems points out that this long range means that the data can be gathered long before ships enter the ports.

He confirmed that the company was having discussions relating to similar projects with other authorities, specifically South Korea and across Asia.

North America however will take a little longer to break into, Willems admitted.

The market for RPAS is growing in the maritime sector beyond just military operations. As well as sulphur emission detection there is increasing interest from Coast Guards for search and rescue operations and the monitoring of critical infrastructures.

Looking further into the future this is the potential for UAVs to be used in cargo operations from ship to shore.

From 1 January 2020 the global upper limit on the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil will be reduced to 0.50% (from 3.50%). Known as IMO 2020, the reduced limit is mandatory for all ships operating outside certain designated Emission Control Areas, where the limit is already 0.10%.

By Beth Maundrill • 3 February 2020, 11:36 GMT

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