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November 26, 2015

Emission-sniffing drones deployed in European waters

News: The European Maritime Safety Agency and the European Space Agency want devices to fight sulphur emission levels.

By Joao Lima

As the world descends to Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference next week, European authorities have unveiled plans to use drones to control ships’ emissions.

The project has been proposed by Lisbon based European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) and will include the English Channel, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, between Sweden and Finland.

The drones would be flown around an area of over one million sq kilometres to track pollution from ships sailing along these waters.

Current allowed emission levels in the region were changed last January to .1% or less of fumes with a sulphur content, compared with up to 3.5% previously.

Ship owners that go over the limit can incur fines. However, authorities have been struggling to carry out their patrols due to the large sea area.

The EMSA is yet to reveal the class of drones to be used. The devices would be flown through a ship’s exhaust plume to measure sulphur levels.

The ESA is also involved to provide the satellite connection for operators to control the drones from land.

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The two agencies are due to meet with industry officials next Wednesday. An experiment will be carried out in July next year, and if successful, drones could start flying by the end of 2016.

Head of operations at EMSA Leendert Bal said: "Member states are struggling to enforce the low-sulphur directives. And there are a lot of concern by ship owners that there is no level playing field. So we need to do as much measuring as possible, and drones will help us do more measurements."

 

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