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EMSA sniffer drone supports French authorities to monitor ship emissions on Mediterranean Sea coast

11 Oct 2022

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) on Thursday (6 October) said it has responded to a request from French authorities to provide surveillance support for multiple tasks including the monitoring of emissions from passenger and commercial ships using the busy ports in the area of Marseille (Port of Marseille, Port of Fos).

The sniffer drone deployed takes measurements from the exhaust plumes of passing ships to help verify compliance with EU and IMO rules capping the sulphur content of marine fuels (Directive (EU) 2016/802 and MARPOL Annex VI), with a view to reducing harmful effects on human health and the environment. The operation follows recent successful trials and is expected to run until 23 December 2022.

The ship safety inspectors of the Interregional Directorate for the Mediterranean Sea (DIRM MED) in charge of dockside controls will be directly involved in the targeting of vessels in close contact with the pilots of the drone.

Each flight will be followed in real time through EMSA’s RPAS Data Centre and the measurements taken will trigger follow-up inspections via the THETIS-EU database for port state control where instances of non-compliance are suspected.

The particular model of RPAS in use is ideal for rapid mobilisation from different sites. The ATLAS 4 vertical take-off and landing quadcopter manufactured by ALTUS LSA and supplied by the ALTUS LSA-led consortium with ADAPTIT is under contract to EMSA and fully equipped with different payloads including cameras and emissions measurement sensors.

While emissions monitoring will be the primary task of the operation, the RPAS may also be deployed for other complementary tasks within a designated area. In this way, it can also serve the purposes of search and rescue, fisheries control, and marine pollution monitoring depending on the specific needs of the authorities at any given time.


Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) services are offered free of charge to all EU countries by EMSA. They have been developed to assist in maritime surveillance operations and ship emission monitoring and can operate in all seas surrounding the European Union. RPAS services can provide support to traditional coast guard functions, including search and rescue and pollution prevention and response. The services are offered to member countries as part of EMSA’s regional RPAS strategy, which allows multiple coast guard functions in several EU countries to be supported by one or more RPAS services.

Related: EMSA drone starts shipping emissions surveillance operation in the Strait of Gibraltar
Related: EMSA and partner to start emissions monitoring campaign over Baltic Sea with drones
Related: France trials sniffer drone to tighten emissions control in the Pas-de-Calais SECA zone
Related: Danish Maritime Authority trials drones to monitor sulphur emissions from ships
Related: RPAS drones to monitor ship emissions for compliance in Danish waters
Related: “Snifferdron” to undergo three months of tests in Danish waters
Related: Danish Maritime Authority deploys ‘sniffer’ drone in Danish waters


Photo credit: European Maritime Safety Agency
Published: 11 October, 2022

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