The advantages and uses of Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the context of Maritime Security.
Micro UAVs are one of the most innovative technologies currently on the military and security markets. Security forces, armies, coast guards and fire brigades in various countries are already widely using them given that these vehicles represent an alternative to traditional means.
In a recent interview in London we asked Pietro Amati, Managing Director of Advanced UAV Technology to explain some of the advantages of this technology in the context of Maritime Security. The following is a transcript of the interview.
And what are the specific advantages of UAVs over the more traditional means?
Their main characteristics are their small size and their fully autonomous flight capability including landing on moving vehicle. All functions are carried out thanks to instructions, real-time or pre-programmed performed by an on-board computer. Therefore since the instructions provided by the user are only direction and speed of the movement you do not need to be a pilot to control the helicopter. A limited surface, usually less than 4 square meters, is needed both for takeoff and landing and maximum speed can exceed 100 km per hour – this obviously depends on the model. This means that UAVs can easily be used on board vessels of various sizes.
What about the specific context of Maritime Security, why are UAVs interesting?
UAV helicopters are easy to transport and can be used in extreme weather conditions. Being much smaller than traditional manned helicopters, UAV helicopters allow for a considerable reduction in purchase, maintenance and transportation costs. Maintaining and operating a manned helicopter for a whole week would cost the same as investing in a new UAV.
More in general what tasks can UAVs actually are used for?
The answer is very simple; in the case of an emergency call, the helicopter can take off from a moving boat, travel a distance of up to 15 miles or more to get to the emergency area, establish if there is indeed an emergency and then land back on a moving boat. All of this while sending a real-time video feed anywhere in the world.
Can you give some examples of where UAVs are being used and by whom?
UAVs can be used for many military and civil applications, such as coast, border and national park surveillance, automatic surveillance and patrolling of pre-defined areas, traffic surveillance, detection of chemical, radioactive or explosive substances, gas pipe and electric line surveillance, crime surveillance, radio signals relay, hostage search, riots and crowd surveillance, delivery of goods in life threatening situations, fishing surveillance, fire surveillance, rescue and escorting of military convoys. So as you can see the uses of UAVs are practically without limits.
What about in the context of maritime security, can you give some practical uses or examples?
UK University of Bristol Roke Manor research, USA Universities, Military NATO forces in Afghanistan and we do have a NATO catalogue number, Police In Florida. Unlike traditional helicopters, UAVs can reach remote and high-risk areas and therefore prevent the possible – and unnecessary – loss of human lives.
You showed MSR an armed version of an Advanced UAV Technology UAV, could you explain how and where it could be used?
Coastal surveillance is of particular importance to many governments these days, for example illegal immigrants often try and reach countries by means of overloaded makeshift boats. The technology can be used in scenarios where modern-day pirates are holding cargo ships hostage or when boat or plane accidents happen due to technical failures and passengers are lost at sea. UAVs would be the perfect, obvious choice of vehicle to use to keep watch, to alert a ship’s crew when attackers are spotted, to promptly search for survivors and hostages and/or assist rescue operations in such tragic circumstances.
So you do very much see an application in the antipiracy battle…
In light of the UN Resolution 1897, which authorises foreign nations to send warships into Somalia’s territorial waters and which allows nations to take “all necessary and appropriate measures inside Somalia to stop acts of piracy”, it is important to point out that all our UAV models can be equipped with a 0.22 or 0.38 calibre machine gun which can be operated remotely and with great precision thanks to the high-resolution images relayed by the various types of cameras that can be mounted on the helicopter. I can say that our 0.22 calibre machine gun option is of particular interest to both armed forces and a number of companies from the private security sector – for obvious reasons I cannot divulge any details. However, I do need to point out that we operate a very strict policy in regards to who we supply this technology to. The armed versions of our UAVs could be used primarily in dissuading attacks from pirates, and thus in defensive mode, and if necessary, in a more agressive fashion, however, this would only be expected from a State client, for example a Navy or a Coast Guard.
Now . . MSR understand that you’ve recently been demonstrating Advanced UAV Technology’s capabilities to state players from the Horn of Africa, would you like to comment on this?
Indeed so, very much so. It is also important to point out that the presence of these vehicles hovering over sea waters can discourage pirate attacks in the area and help to identify suspect vessels, not to mention the fact that it can prevent the waste of human time and energy in case of hoax calls or false alarms.
OK Pietro, I fully respect and appreciate that. You certainly have a lot to do so thank you for your time Pietro and good luck working with the UAVs.
(laughs …) You know me well enough to know that I never comment on these matters, I’m very discreet.
My pleasure and thank you very much.