Pollution Patrolling Drones

Nordic Unmanned was assisting the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in supporting The Spanish Dirección General de la Marina Mercante (General Directorate of Marine Merchant), which is a department of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda (Ministerio de Transportes, Movilidad y Agenda Urbana in the enforcement of sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitric oxide (NOx) emission regulations

Bay of Gibraltar, home to large ships and oil tankers

This deployment marks the first emission monitoring campaign in a global emission control regulated area, which has a 0,5% sulphur limit, opposed to the 0,1% sulphur limit enforced in the SECA (Sulphur Emission Control Area). The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) service is offered under the contract of the European Maritime Safety Agency to The Spanish Dirección General de la Marina Mercante.


The operation in Spain began 12th of July 2021 in Algeciras, in the Bay of Algeciras/Gibraltar, which waters is used by a considerable amount of large and medium-sized ships, notably oil tanker and freighters. Estrecho de Gibraltar (Strait of Gibraltar) is one of the busiest maritime areas in the world and is around 15km wide in its narrowest part, separating Africa from Europe. The BVLOS operation conducted by Nordic Unmanned can last up to 7 hours and is performed daily, increasing the number of vessels possible to inspect by the local authorities.

10% of all vessels inspected are suspected violators

The RPAS deployed registers potential violators of the emission regulations. The onboard sniffer samples a plume from the exhaust of the vessel and measures if the sulfur amount is higher than the allowed sulfur concentration of 0,5%. Since this is a regulated area, the allowed sulphur limit is 0.5%, and not 0.1%, as in the SECA (Sulphur Emission Control Area), where our previous deployments have been. The emission control services serve as an indication of possible non-compliance by a particular vessel.


The RPAS has been carrying out daily two flights between 12th of July and 20th of September with an average of ten inspections per day. According to the Spanish Authorities, current figures show that of 294 vessels controlled some 27 were found in possible breach of the limits of sulphur content in their fuel.

"To provide authorities with cutting-edge maritime environmental technology is extremely rewarding, and to see the results of hard work and good cooperation gives us motivation for the future! We are proud to assist the work in reducing marine pollution by ensuring that vessels are complying with the emission regulation.”

Knut Roar Wiig, CEO Nordic Unmanned

How Lithuania is using drones to monitor ship emissions

Take a look behind the scenes at how Nordic Unmanned assisted Lithuanian authorities through European Maritime Safety Agency RPAS services!

Special thanks Lietuvos transporto saugos administracija for the video!

Interested in learning more about our Pollution Patrolling Drones?

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