How drone technology is improving safety in the maritime industry


UAS advancements are increasingly impacting our everyday lives, from agriculture & filmmaking to security and communications down to the products we have delivered. Its advances present major changes for the future of the maritime industry. As disruptive as the smartphone has been to the world, the use of drones will revolutionise the landscape of ship operations for years to come.

Drones are quickly becoming a regular tool in the maritime industry, although developed for government and military operations, over the next half a decade, growth in the commercial and civilian drone industry is expected to surpass defence industry, with an estimated value of $127 billion.  As the development of UAS technology gathers momentum, we’re going to see UAS used more and more in maritime applications than ever before.

Drones can safely go where humans can’t. Improving safety, reducing costs, speeding up processes and making access challenges a breeze, are just a handful of the benefits of using drones in the maritime industry.

Improving Ship Safety & Speeding up Maintenance & Repairs

Replacing the need for human inspections, routine maintenance can be monitored remotely in real-time by surveyors, providing instant feedback to the vessel or offshore Superintendent. This, in turn, reduces costs, increases efficiency and significantly reduces the risk to human life during essential maintenance.

Tank inspections are a common task onboard vessels and are always a risk to the participating crew members. Dangerous gases are the biggest killer at sea: often, a crew member will enter an enclosed space – unbeknownst to them, that it contains a noxious gas. Unfortunately, often they will become unconscious and suffocate. However, this can be completely avoided by the use of a drone. Easy and quick analysis will determine the safety of the tank for entry – saving lives with just a matter of minutes of drone flight. Equally, video feedback can be used to identify if human inspection is even required, completely removing any threat to human lives.

Aside from the safety and efficiency aspects, shipping companies also want to avoid typically three things: whales, icebergs and pirates. Since the advancements of drones have allowed imagery from over 30km away, dealing with the task of hazard avoidance has become far easier for commercial shipping companies.

Reducing Costs

Drones can be typically operated by one person without any extensive safety equipment, meaning the costs associated can be significantly reduced. UAS are so quick to deploy in comparison to traditional methods, reducing downtime.

UAS technology

The use of drones for delivery has become a fast approached topic in the maritime industry, a topic that has now become a reality. The use of drones, rather than launch boats could help to reduce costs by up to 90% for vessel operations and ship managers. Research has shown that on average, the cost of a launch boat is $1,500 per hire, however, it can be as much as $4,000 depending on port locations, and it’s been estimated to save the entire industry upwards of $675 million.

Making Access Challenges a Breeze

Drones can be flown into high up or hazardous areas to check the structural integrity of a vessel or of loaded cargo. Whereas previously this high-risk job was down to a crew member, now a drone can be flown to the inspection point, and with a high definition video feedback to the control centre, not only does this mitigate any risk, it is also far quicker.

Much has been made of re-supplying ships whilst at sea, especially since the evolution of drones, this task has become a far simpler concept. Although initial tests showed multiple hurdles to overcome to make this option of delivery viable, are the use of drones disrupting the maritime industry as we know it?

Since the first trial in January 2016, when a drone made an at-sea delivery, the industry rut began to budge. Although, only travelling a distance of 247 metres and was launched from a smaller tug-boat rather than from the shore, the optimism and promising signs were ever present. However, there are still far more speed bumps to overcome, from improving the distance a drone can travel to its ability to handle heavy and large loads and until these progressions, UAS technology is currently primarily being focussed on inspection and surveillance.

Drones are only one small part of the bigger puzzle in helping transform and disrupt the maritime industry. What do we know? That UAS play a critical component in the future of the maritime industry in increasing its effectiveness, efficiency and safety and before we know it, the maritime industry will be altered forever.

To find out more about our Collision-Tolerant UAS click here.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest at Sea

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) can affect anybody of any fitness level and age, anywhere, at any time. It’s the world’s biggest killer, with over 17.3 million deaths per year worldwide due to heart complications, and with it expected to rise to as much as 23.6 million by 2030, being protected and having the correct equipment is key to helping victims survive. Not only does it help improve the safety and welfare of your crew, it can save thousands of dollars in medical expenses. 1 in 5 ship excursions are forced to divert due to medical reasons. The potential cost saving to the maritime industry is in excess of $168 million per year.

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Ensuring compliance with potable water testing regulations on ships: a complete guide

Regulations surrounding potable water on ships

In August 2013, the Maritime Labour Convention’s (MLC) started to enforce their regulations (MLC 2006), aimed at maintaining high-quality drinking water onboard ships, to protect crew from waterborne health risks.

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How it feels to survive a Sudden Cardiac Arrest: An incredible real-life story

The world’s biggest killer, Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Sadly, most mariners will know of someone who’s had a SCA at sea, as SCA can affect anyone, anywhere and regardless of how fit they are. When a person collapses, is unresponsive, and is not breathing normally, he or she is most likely experiencing SCA. Whether the victim survives, depends largely upon the immediate intervention of bystanders.

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Drug & Alcohol Screening: Isn’t it time that the ‘Drunken Sailor’ was confined to the past?

The concept of the ‘drunken sailor’ has been around almost as long as shipping itself. Long periods spent at sea can take their toll on seafarers and alcohol has long been a way to relieve the stresses and anxiety felt when separated from the outside world for weeks at a time. Folk songs and sea shanties aside, alcohol or drugs have been a contributing factor in some of the worst shipping catastrophes of the last 50 years, so much so that all vessels must now have a Drug and Alcohol policy onboard which sets out controlled and banned substances, as well as times and limitations for the consumption of alcohol. Drug and Alcohol screening play a large part in many shipping operator’s policies, yet the process isn’t set in stone for all vessels.

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SeaCell 4G Antenna & iCon Marine PLC System: Working Together to Make Smart Ships a Reality

The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) and ‘Big Data’ are terms being bandied about across a wide range of sectors, with business leaders keen to exploit the huge benefits of data-driven systems and the information they collect. The marine industry is no exception but with unreliable access to the internet, the reality of integrating such systems offshore can have its challenges.

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Elios: A Safer Way Forward for Ship Inspections

The seaworthiness of a vessel is one of the most important considerations for any maritime operator. Whether you are responsible for a small passenger ship or bulk carrier, compliance laws are getting stricter to ensure that crew members and passengers are kept safe and marine pollution levels are kept to a minimum. Penalties can be serious, but if a ship isn’t inspected and maintained, it can also have a serious detrimental effect on a ship’s trading ability, meaning additional time waiting for critical repairs either stuck in port or out at sea.

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Getting to know the Martek team – Dave O’Rourke

We have a fantastic team of people here at Martek Marine and we would like to introduce everyone to you. As part of our “Getting to know the Martek team” series, here’s our next team member Dave O’Rourke.

Dave is our Warranty Co-ordinator based at Martek HQ in the UK and we asked him a few questions to help you get to know him better… Continue reading “Getting to know the Martek team – Dave O’Rourke”

Telemedicine Q & A with Charlie Whyman

Seafarers are the lifeblood of the shipping industry and are critical to its future sustainability. That said, are we doing enough to ensure the welfare of those at sea? Furthermore, could major improvements to crew welfare save the shipping industry millions of dollars per year?

The latest marine technology that’s just hit the market is turning inferior seafarer healthcare on its head. Called telemedicine, this groundbreaking technology is making SERIOUS waves in the maritime industry.

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Gas safety top of the agenda for Martek Marine on US$3 billion offshore project

A first of its kind gas sampling system 

Maritime industry technology specialists Martek Marine are setting the bar high when it comes to offshore gas safety. The company has developed a first-of-its-kind gas sampling system for a new moored floating production unit, which forms part of the Jangkrik Complex gas fields development in Indonesia. The system has been developed to dramatically improve offshore crew safety through the use of advanced gas sampling technology.

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