Integrating Remote Sensing and Artificial Intelligence to monitor maritime activities across Limassol Bay (IRSAI)

2 years (June 2023 – May 2025)

Funded by:
European Union Recovery and Resilience Facility of the NextGenerationEU instrument, through the Research and Innovation Foundation

Project partners:
Marine & Environmental Research (MER) Lab Ltd
Frederick Research Center (FRC)
CYENS – Centre of Excellence

Project Description:
The city of Limassol has witnessed unprecedented development in recent years and became a vibrant maritime centre in the Eastern Mediterranean attracting investments from around the world. Cyprus has the third largest merchant fleet in Europe and 11th largest in the world hosting the largest third-party ship management centre in Europe. The country’s maritime industry contributes more than €1 billion to the economy annually. Limassol port, the largest port on the island, accommodates approximately 2500 ships per year. Limassol marina has 650 berths whilst the St. Raphael marina has another 237, both operating at full capacity most of the year. All this development comes with environmental costs. Around 90% of major marine pollution incidences documented by the national authorities occur in Limassol Bay. Detection of anthropogenic spillages (oil, black or grey water) in the coastal waters of Limassol Bay became the norm, especially in the summer months, as small floating slicks are sighted by bathers and sea users on an almost daily basis. This threatens the water quality and can affect the provision of ecosystem services such as rich biodiversity, healthy and sustainable fisheries, safe recreation, and the growing tourism industry.

The mission of IRSAI is to develop and employ a multi-agent dual use technology that will be able to identify pollution infringements, point the origin, collect evidence, foresee the trajectory and guide appropriate response by management. Adoption of IRSAI is expected to significantly reduce illegal discharges in the Sea that remain largely undetected and undocumented and to help tackle the growing problem of pollution spillages across Limassol Bay. With the participation of three local entities (research SME, Centre of Excellence, University) and the support of key stakeholders, IRSAI brings together computer scientists, robotic engineers, maritime specialists, marine biologists and managers to advance maritime surveillance of Cyprus beyond the state-of-the-art.

The IRSAI tools will be able to be operated remotely, in real-time, day and night and are more tactical, effective and accurate, faster, safer and less costly than current surveillance methods. Three innovations will be demonstrated: (1) A professional surveillance drone integrated with special sensors and artificial intelligence will be used to automatically identify geographic locations of vessels and potential pollution spillages; (2) An agile Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) equipped with a camera will be programmed to travel to the targeted site, check for oil presence, and retrieve a contaminated water sample; (3) A state of-the-art dispersion model will improve its precision accuracy with real current data and integrate high resolution real-time spillage information from the drone to predict the trajectory of the spillage and backtrack to the potential source. IRSAI tools pioneer internationally. Adoption of IRSAI tools in maritime surveillance will benefit communities and will safeguard sustainable growth. The dual use potential of IRSAI is high; automatic object detection, identification of spillages and thermal signatures in the Sea, transportation and deployment/recovery, and prediction of the origin and destination of drifting objects.