France enforces emissions regulations using sulfur sniffer drones

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Sulfur sniffer drones used by France – photo courtesy of Nordic Unmanned

By

The maritime executive

29/09/2020 02:38:53

Efforts to enforce strict sulfur limits on ships navigating Europe’s control zones are supported by high-tech sulfur-sniffer drones. France, in collaboration with drones from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), has become the latest authority to launch the surveillance program.

To strengthen the control of emissions from ships in French waters, the Ministry of the Sea has launched the deployment of a sniffer drone in the Strait of Pas-de-Calais, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The three-month trial program began on September 23.

The area where the monitoring takes place is part of the North Sea Sulfur Emission Control Area (SECA), where stricter pollution regulations apply. Vessels navigating in this area must use fuel with a sulfur concentration not exceeding 0.1 percent compared to the limitation in other areas of 0.5 percent.

The Remotely Piloted Unmanned Aircraft System (RPAS) will fly over the taxiways of Pas-de-Calais in France bordering the English Channel. The drones will collect data on the sulfur concentration in emissions and gas measurements, as well as sending images and flight path data to EMSA’s RPAS data center. There the data will be analyzed and transmitted to THETIS-EU, a European database used by the European authorities responsible for ship inspections.

According to EMSA, EU Member States are informed of violations in order to facilitate the coordination of ship inspections. If the drone’s emission measurement reveals that the concentration limit has been exceeded, a subsequent inspection of the vessel can be initiated at the next port of call.

The drones used in the program are provided by Nordic Unmanned, which is working in partnership with NORCE Research Institute AS, Schiebel and Explicit, to develop the system in cooperation with EMSA.

The Danish Maritime Authority conducted a similar testing program in 2019 and resumed efforts with a second test this summer. The Danish program, which is expected to run until the end of October, also using drones from EMSA, monitors ship emissions in an area north of the Great Belt, where many large ships sail to and from the sea Baltic.

By flying through the ship’s exhaust plume, the drone can use its so-called “sniffer technology” to record the sulfur content of the ship’s fuel. In the Danish program, data is immediately available to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, which can then follow up if a ship emits too much sulfur.

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