The monitoring of worldwide ship traffic is a field of high topicality. Activities like piracy, ocean dumping, and refugee transportation are in the news every day. The detection of ships in remotely sensed data from airplanes, drones, or spacecraft contributes to maritime situational awareness. However, the crucial factor is the up-to-dateness of the extracted information. With ground-based processing, the time between image acquisition and delivery of the extracted product data is in the range of several hours, mainly due to the time consumed by storing and transmission of the large image data. By processing and analyzing them on-board and transmitting the product data directly as ship position, heading, and velocity, the delay can be shortened to some minutes. Real-time connections via satellite telecommunication services allow small packets of information to be sent directly to the user without significant delay. The AMARO (Autonomous Real-Time Detection of Moving Maritime Objects) project at DLR is a feasibility study of an on-board ship detection system involving on-board processing and real-time communication. The operation of a prototype system was successfully demonstrated on an airborne platform in spring 2018. The on-ground user could be informed about detected vessels within minutes after sighting without a direct communication link. In this article, the scope, aim, and design of the AMARO system are described, and the results of the flight experiment are presented in detail.
Keywords: Iridium; flight campaign; image processing; maritime situational awareness; on-board; real-time communication; ship detection.