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Nordic Unmanned uses drones to monitor sulphur emissions from ships

Published 22 Mar 2023 (updated 3 June 2024) · 2 min read

Quick information

At a glance

  • Drones can detect and measure various vessel emissions
  • Enables time and cost-effective monitoring of sulphur emissions
  • Helps maritime authorities to monitor compliance with IMO regulations

Nordic Unmanned provides unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for measuring sulphur emissions and ensuring compliance with IMO regulations in the shipping sector.

Most ships run on heavy fuel oil, which causes significant emissions of sulphur oxides (SOₓ). These emissions cause air pollution, acid rain, ocean acidification as well as respiratory and other diseases in humans. One study suggests that left unchecked, sulphur emissions from shipping could play a part in 570 000 premature deaths worldwide by 2025.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has therefore put into place the Sulphur 2020 cap to regulate sulphur content in ship fuels. This has created a need for efficient and reliable methods of monitoring sulphur emissions from vessels.

UAVs for remote monitoring of ship emissions

Nordic Unmanned provides and operates unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to monitor compliance with the IMO Sulphur 2020 regulations.

The drones are equipped with sensors that detect and measure levels of SO₂, CO₂, NO₂ and NO in ship exhaust. This allows for remote assessment of a ship’s fuel composition outside of port. If measurements are above the stipulated limit, the ship’s port of call gets a notification to proceed with further fuel sampling.

Because remote monitoring provides an accurate reading of vessels in motion it can also improve detection of non-compliant vessels that take advantage of in-port testing to temporarily switch to a cleaner fuel.

Ship in the dark

Concrete benefits

Remote monitoring with drones allows maritime authorities to measure sulphur emissions from more vessels in less amount of time. More efficient and precise monitoring may in turn make it less attractive for vessels to use high sulphur fuels. In the long term, this will benefit both the environment and human health.

Extensive use of remote sulphur monitoring can also improve the authorities’ understanding and awareness of where and when vessels do not comply, enabling them to focus compliance efforts where they will have the best effect.

Aeroplane flying over water

Market potential

Nordic Unmanned is a leading provider of UAS technology and services. The company carries out remote monitoring of vessel sulphur emissions, oil spill monitoring, and other types of monitoring and inspection as well. Nordic Unmanned has also developed an eco-friendly Railway Drone that performs unmanned rail maintenance and inspection, and an eco-friendly hydrogen-powered drone with doubled endurance.

In 2018, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) signed a four-year contract with Nordic Unmanned to perform sulphur measurements in European waters utilising large remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) (MTOW 200 kg) as sensor carriers.

Nordic Unmanned also has a contract to provide EMSA with solutions and services for oil spill monitoring.

Stein Engen

Chief Commercial Officer

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Havnespeilet, 3. etasje, Rådhusgata 3, 4306 SANDNES, Norway

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