Aeolus – Mid-altitude maritime monitoring platform for security, search & rescue and environmental monitoring

AELOUS is a mid-altitude airborne maritime sensor platform which significantly increases the operating surveillance range by increasing the elevation of the monitoring systems. The Aeolus platform can effectively operate at 450m above the ship – increasing the surveillance area in excess of 11 times of what can be monitored with existing solutions. The platform can be used with multiple lifting systems and can be deployed for many hours. It is being trialled by Naval and Search&Rescue Services.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The AEOLUS programme was developed through collaboration with a number of prominent organisations in Ireland, including Defence Forces, Enterprise Ireland, SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland), Nimbus Research Centre, Halpin Research Centre and University of Limerick.
We started the project in 2013 with the overall goal to increase the application of advanced technology by the Irish Naval Service (INS) to enhance its operational effectiveness and efficiency. Initial phases of the programme looked at integrating propulsion kite technology on an INS ship to reduce fuel consumption. Further discussion led to the idea of utilising the kite elevation to increase surveillance capabilities for the vessel below. A proposal to investigate the possibility of developing a mid-altitude sensor platform which could be hung from the kite, or any other lifting system, led to an independent feasibility study being conducted. The outcome of which highlighted the opportunities for such a platform in security, search & rescue and environmental monitoring applications.

The Problem - Navies across the world are being asked to deliver more civil and military services on tighter defence budgets and current monitoring systems fitted to ships can only monitor out to 14 Nautical Miles (Nm) – as at that point the curvature of the earth begins to hide objects behind the horizon.

The primary objective and innovation of the Aeolus project is to develop an effective, flexible, configurable, low power and cost effective maritime monitoring and surveillance platform that can be operated above a seagoing vessel at an altitude of 50 to 450 metres thereby increasing a large vessel’s monitoring and surveillance area by up to 10 times. For smaller vessels, the increase is even greater, up to 20 times.

To date we have developed and trialled in the Atlantic a prototype (version 3.5) of the Aeolus Platform. The project has delivered a 22kg, 0.4m3 (800mm x 610mm x 740mm) modularised, lifting-system agnostic maritime monitoring platform that has been test flown at sea with the Irish Naval Service to an altitude of 150 metres in winds of 30kts (55kph) and a 1.5 metre swell. At 150 metres (≈600 feet), the platform extended the vessel’s visual horizon from 9nm to 24nm (16km to 44km) and the radio/radar horizon from 10nm to 27nm (18km to 51km). The vessel’s visual monitoring area was increased from 234nm2 to 1751nm2 (801km2 to 6006km2) and the radio monitoring area from 311nm2 (1067km2) to 2332nm2 (7999km2).

The version 3.5 AEOLUS platform contains a number of sensors and sub-systems which include:
•A customised surface target detection radar,
•3-axis radar stabilisation sub-system, a
•3-axis stabilised visual and night vision high definition camera,
•AIS receiver*,
•Wind speed monitoring,
•A wide band radio signal detection system with direction finding capability,
•On-board power, management and diagnostics sub-systems,
•Robust, secure platform-vessel communications link,
•Ground station to receive and process platform data and software to manage platform operation,
•Middleware API and a first iteration user interface.

With the exception of the radar that has been customised in this project, all these systems and software have been substantially or entirely developed by the technical team during this project.

The next phase of the project will iterate the design to include enhanced AI, LIDAR, FLIR, ruggedized shell, reduced size and weight. Trials are planned with Irish Naval Service, Norwegian Search and Rescue and others.

A spinout company is planned to exploit the technology that would target maritime security and humanitarian applications including fisheries and drug enforcement, search & rescue, vessel and personnel security and anti-piracy missions.

Full video can be found on our website.

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Year: 2018
Level of government: Other


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