An unmanned aircraft system for maritime operations: The automatic detection subsystem

Mario Monteiro Marques, Victor Lobo, A. Pedro Aguiar, J. Estrela Silva, J. Borges de Sousa, Maria de Fátima Nunes, Ricardo Adriano Ribeiro, Alexandre Bernardino, Gonçalo Cruz, Jorge Salvador Marques

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper addresses the development of an integrated system to support maritime situation awareness based on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), empha-sizing the role of the automatic detection subsystem. One of the main topics of research in the SEAGULL project was the automatic detection of sea vessels from sensors onboard the UAV, to help human operators in the generation of situational awareness of maritime events such as (a) detection and geo-referencing of oil spills or hazardous and noxious substances, (b) tracking systems (e.g., vessels, ship-wrecks, lifeboats, debris), (c) recognizing behavioral patterns (e.g., vessels rendez-vous, high-speed vessels, atypical patterns of navigation), and (d) monitoring environmental parameters and indicators. We describe a system composed of optical sensors, an embedded computer, communication systems, and a vessel detection algorithm that can run in real time in the embedded UAV hardware and provide to human operators vessel detections with low latency, high precision rates (about 99%), and suitable recalls (>50%), which is comparable to other more computationally intensive state-of-the-art approaches. Field test results, including the detection of lifesavers and multiple vessels in red-green-and-blue (RGB) and thermal images, are presented and discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-49
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Technology Society Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Computer vision
  • Identification
  • Tracking
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Vessel detection


Dive into the research topics of 'An unmanned aircraft system for maritime operations: The automatic detection subsystem'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this