How Aerial Data Can Improve Coastline Monitoring Operations

UAV captures illegal fishing along a marine reserve during coastal monitoring

Governments are in search of ways to better visualize what’s happening along their nation’s coastlines and maritime environments. Border security, search and rescue, port and shipping activity, environmental health – there are numerous coastal activities that governments need to be aware of. New technologies on the market today can get you the actionable data you need to develop predictive analytics for better decision-making around the trends, hotspots, and likelihood of future occurrences along the coast.

Getting a Bird’s-Eye-View of Your Coastline

At SkyX, we leverage two state-of-the-art technologies to create the high-quality, aerial data that drives predictive analytics: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

  • With AI and a seasoned aerial data professional, we can distill vast amounts of raw data into the most meaningful data points around key areas of interest along a coastline. With machine efficiency and thorough training on a wide variety of anomalies, an AI can mow through numerous images to detect, classify, and prioritize objects or anomalies. But remember, AI is still an early-stage technology that requires lots of training to capture the right information, which is why at SkyX, we always work with subject matter experts to ensure AI-analyzed data is 100% verified.
  • With UAV technology, we can efficiently gather vast amounts of visual data that is consistent from inspection-to-inspection. Our remotely piloted aerial systems have the precision and flexibility to fly a variety of missions at the frequency we need to detect changes and identify trends.

An Aerial Data Solution for Maritime Problems

Let’s examine how the SkyX solution helps government agencies improve their efforts along their coastlines:

Border Security

Coastal borders can be a hotbed for illegal activity. In the United States, drug trafficking on the high seas is a big issue, with over 458,000 lbs of cocaine seized by the US Coast Guard in 2018 alone. By the Coast Guard’s calculations, this represents but a third of shipments making their way to the coastal United States.1

Internationally, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is a monumental problem that contributes to the devastation of marine ecosystems. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, nearly 26 million tonnes of fish, worth up to $23 billion is lost to IUU fishing annually.2

A long-range UAV equipped with the means to conduct object detection in real-time is a force multiplier for coast guard teams. As the UAV flies its inspection, it will provide coastal authorities with live alerts of the precise location of unauthorized vessels, allowing authorities to respond accordingly. A UAV system, deployed from land or sea, can work in parallel with other marine or aerial systems to drastically increase the remote situational awareness of offshore territory.

During flight, the UAV can detect vessels outside of regulated zones, suspicious vessels lacking proper identifiers, or foreign vessels within your country’s exclusive economic zone. And with time, a predictive analytics model can start to identify your hotspots of unauthorized traffic along the coast and how likely you are to see an increase or decrease in the future. With this information in hand, security agencies can work to proactively address problem areas along their coastal borders.

Search and Rescue

Accidents happen and every coast guard has to deal with domestic vessels – be they commercial or private – in need of rescue from time-to-time.

A UAV is a great tool for search and rescue teams given its ability to coordinate with vessels on the water. In a distress call scenario, a UAV can serve as a forward scout. With a robust communications link, the aerial system can communicate positions to rescue teams and quickly provide imagery of the area that rescuers can use to get intel on the situation as they head-in.

Port and Shipping Activity

Ports stand to see a great return on investment from an aerial data solution. A UAV can gather a variety of visual data that assists with port operations such as container inventory, port machinery inspections, and shipping traffic around the port. With the flexibility of having different payload sensors and communications equipment onboard, a high-endurance UAV can monitor emissions from ships entering a port, track and log containers in storage areas, or identify signs of damage on port machinery.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and shipping traffic is an area where predictive analytics can help make a big difference. An aerial monitoring system can measure the congestion of ships at sea, trucks in the yard, and containers in storage. Over time, a predictive analytics model can leverage this information and check it against external data, to identify potential indicators of traffic around your port. With foresight on potential congestion, you can take the necessary steps to alleviate it.

Environmental Observation

The UK is an interesting use case of the challenges coastal communities are facing in a world of climate change and rising sea levels. The cliffs of sand and clay that form the UK’s picturesque shores are unfortunately highly-susceptible to erosion. Numerous towns along the UK’s eastern coast are facing significant shoreline loss in the coming decades, which will see thousands of homes lost to the sea.3 Many other areas around the world – such as the coastal United States – will be facing similar challenges along their shorelines.

This is an area where a high-quality aerial data solution has an unignorable pay-off in the long term. In this scenario, using a LiDAR sensor – which uses laser pulses to measure elevations in the Earth – allows us to precisely track changes such as erosion in a 3D space. Flying a pre-programmed route along the shoreline, a UAV captures consistent sensor data for analysis, which is easily repeatable day-by-day. Utilizing a steady flow of information, an AI model can leverage historical data for comparison with the latest inspection, to detect subtle changes in the landscape due to erosion or flooding.

Over time, a predictive analytics model can cross-reference your inspections against weather data to show how erosion is progressing along your coastline, or make a well-informed prediction of when and where flooding is likely to occur. With a sharp estimate of what your coastline will look like in the future, environmental protection agencies can focus their efforts on tackling problem areas of environmental degradation.

How Can Predictive Analytics Solve Your Coastal Challenges?

Take a moment to think about some of the challenges you face along your coastline and how better data can help you to solve them. The proactive decision-making of predictive analytics. The sheer processing power of AI neural networks. The efficiency of a UAV. Government agencies are in a better place than ever before to tackle the big issues along their coastline with powerful aerial data solutions.

Have questions about how high-quality aerial data can elevate your organization?
Contact our team to discuss your unique challenges and data requirements.

  1. Billions of dollars of cocaine are smuggled into the US by sea every year, and the Coast Guard says it can only stop one-quarter of it, Christopher Woody, Business Insider, 2018
  2. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2019
  3. England’s disappearing coastline: Shocking map reveals coastal towns at risk of being wiped out over next 20 years – and suggests 7,000 homes will fall into the sea by end of century, Ian Randall, Daily Mail, 2019