UK-based Martek Marine’s drone division has secured a framework contract from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to monitor pollution in European rivers and seas.

As part of the deal, Martek Drones will use its 2m-long drones up to 50km offshore to measure the levels of sulphur and carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from the exhausts of commercial ships.

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The drones will be equipped with visible light and infra-red cameras, as well as various other sensors.

"The drone we are using is unique in the world."

After getting a request from a European Union (EU) member nation, Martek Drones will send a pair of drones and a crew to monitor the seas for a minimum of 60 days.

The land-based team will manoeuvre the drone close to ship exhaust stacks and use a gas analyser to measure the sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and CO2 levels in the surrounding atmosphere.

Data to be obtained by the team will be sent back to shipping authorities in order to ensure the ship owners’ commitment to EU legislation on using sulphur levels in their fuel, which causes acid rain and damages health.  

Martek Group CEO and owner Paul Luen said: “The drone we are using is unique in the world.

“To carry out this work so far offshore it has to be able to fly for up to six hours and carry a payload of up to 10kg. It will also have to withstand all weathers, including gale-force winds and heavy rain. It’s effectively a mini-helicopter.”

Luen further added: “We literally believe we can ‘change the world’ using drone applications. We will announce a number of world firsts in the next three years.”

Previously, Martek Marine has used their drone technology to serve fire services, police authorities, universities, and owners of wind turbines.

Image: Martek Marine and EMSA representatives. Photo: courtesy of Martek Marine.