AIRWATCH: The Drone for Maritime Search & Rescue Operations

AIRWATCH was the first funded drone project for Alter Technology, in 2016. It was awarded within the INTERCONNECTA 2016 funding programme of CDTI (Spain).

This project intended to develop a drone system for maritime applications such as search & rescue, surveillance, borders control, etc… It arose as an innovative proposal for the maritime authorities of the Member States.  

The consortium confirmed by Deimos Space (leader), Renovagy, SolarMems, and Alter Technology completed the planned activities with successful results in 2019, after three years of work. 

Different tests were performed during these years to verify the system’s behavior in a real scenario. First, electromagnetic compatibility, climatic and cybersecurity tests were necessary to guarantee the efficiency, robustness, and reliability in an operational flight.  

ALTER Technology addressed this last issue through the development of innovative cybersecurity tests related to jamming and spoofing with the collaboration of CATEC (aerospace technologies advanced center), which provided additional equipment to verify the vulnerabilities of AIRWATCH in this concern. 

Furthermore, flight functional tests were also successfully performed to test the different configurations (flight modes) developed for AIRWATCH and also to assess the integration of the aerial vehicle with the mobile platform, verifying some critical aspects as the guidance for take-off and landing stages throughout the integrated solar sensors in this platform. These tests were carried out over several weeks taking advantage of the optimal weather conditions in Andalusia.   


Project conclusions 

Finally, several conclusions were drawn by the consortium regarding tests activities, highlighting:  

  • The importance of a test plan is based on the safety concept. Operational Safety cannot be guaranteed without a previous evaluation of the equipment inside a laboratory.  
  • EMC tests are important due to the interoperability between AIRWATCH and the equipment on board a vessel. However, simultaneous emissions could obstruct the right performance of the system.  
  • Climatic tests are also important due to the different temperatures that AIRWATCH could find in a determinate operation. These temperatures could produce damage to different parts of the equipment.  
  • Jamming & Spoofing are becoming common hazards these days. Intentional interference intents or control steals are difficult to avoid, but a robust system and properly tested could be a solution from the point of view of a manufacturer or a system developer.