Smart and Uncrewed Shipping

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  • ActivityFeasibility Study

  • ActivityDemonstration Project
  • Opening date15 February 2021
  • Closing date31 August 2021

In the upcoming Announcement of Opportunity, aligned with the ESA Telecommunications 5G Strategic Programme, economic operators are invited to propose either a Feasibility Study or a Demonstration Project addressing the theme of:

Space for Smart and Uncrewed Shipping:
downstream services enabled by 5G and advanced positioning, navigation and timing (PNT)


The projects under this Call for Proposals shall address the Smart and Uncrewed shipping domain with innovative user-driven solutions relying on advanced technologies such as 5G and PNT (Positioning, Navigation and Timing) to the benefit of the involved user communities. 

The current Call for Proposals is originated from the agreements established by ESA and several stakeholders, which can be grouped in the following categories:

* Industrial associations and alliances;

* Government agencies;

* EU Agencies;

* Maritime Authorities;

* Port Authorities.

These stakeholders, with their own perspective and mandate, are interested in: 

  • Supporting the emergence of commercially sustainable space-based services in the smart and uncrewed shipping domain. 
  • Advancing the safe integration of the uncrewed maritime vessels in the general maritime traffic. 


The projects shall focus on the design, development and demonstration of the downstream services and of the related space technologies and products, addressing the involved stakeholders’ priorities in the smart and unmanned shipping sector.

In order to address stakeholders and users’ needs, the proposed services shall rely on innovative space technologies and data, such as: 

  1. Hybrid 5G space/terrestrial communication networks 
  2. Advanced PNT technologies 

Other space assets, technologies and data may be of relevance to the service solution. 

Projects may therefore include (though not mandated to): 

  • Any 5G satcom ground segment technology and product (e.g. modem, user terminals, gateways, network management and control solutions, antennas) developments required for the delivery of the proposed service. Special focus is on the fusion of satellite and terrestrial telecommunications solutions showcasing converged 5G networks. 
  • Development of novel PNT technologies and products as necessary to delivery of the proposed service. 

This call for proposal objectives are: 

* Promote the development of sustainable downstream applications in the domain of smart shipping and/or uncrewed shipping.

* Foster the utilization of innovative technologies such as 5G communications and advanced PNT (Positioning, Navigation, Timing).

* Development of the required technologies and products to enable the convergence of terrestrial and space based 5G networks.

* Development of the required technologies and products to enable advanced PNT techniques in support of uncrewed and smart shipping navigation. 

* Advance the safe integration of uncrewed maritime vessels in the maritime traffic. 

* Provide pre-operational demonstrations to the prospective users and customers of the proposed applications show-casing the benefits deriving from the utilization of space. 

* Promote the international dimension of the proposed services.

Proposals that include only product and technology developments without service demonstration are not eligible to be addressed under this call.


The following scenarios have been identified as key focus areas:

  • Secure autonomous vessels operations and/or remote piloting
  • Digitalization at sea and ports 
  • Predictive maintenance and support to remote operations at sea
  • Reduction of emissions and environmental impact 
  • Maritime safety 
  • Efficient intermodal transport 
  • Monitoring of threatened coastal areas
  • Maritime surveillance and detection of illegal actions at sea


A number of examples of how space can support innovation in this domain are listed below:

5G Satellite Telecommunications

  • Provide connectivity to vessels out of range of terrestrial connectivity means.
  • Act as a back-up to terrestrial communications.

Advanced PNT technologies

  • Provide positioning, navigation and tracking capabilities to vessels, cargo and relevant machinery utilised at ports.

Satellite Earth observation

  • Detecting and monitoring environmental impact such as coastal erosion, effects of dredging, water quality and pollutant output.…
  • Surveys of protected areas to ensure the safety of marine animal populations (with respect to shipping operations).
  • Mapping, radar and bathymetry data to support navigation, and as input to shipping simulation models.…


We offer funding and support to companies, both for business case assessment and for the development of new, space-based services related to intelligent transport. Our offer includes:

  • Technical & commercial guidance;
  • Access to our network and partners;
  • Use of the ESA brand for your service.
  • Zero-equity funding as summarized in the table presented below:


Feasibility Study 50%**
Demonstration Project 50%**

** ESA will bear up to 50% of the project cost, and the remainder has to be financed by the tenderer and/or other partners through private and/or public sector direct or indirect co-financing. 

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises activities can be funded up to 80 % by the Agency, depending on the funding level authorised by the related National Delegation(s).

For activities related to new technology/product development different funding levels may apply.


We are looking for teams that have identified an attractive sustainable opportunity with real potential for engaging customers. Motivation, business experience and domain expertise are all important features. We want to hear about your sustainable ideas that involve either space technology or space data. 

For this call, companies residing in the following Member States will be eligible to apply:  Austria, Canada, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. See also the information below on obtaining letters of support from National Delegations.The service provider shall be part of the bidding team to ensure the commercial operational roll-out of the proposed service following completion of the project. 


The applicable funding level of the individual prime- or subcontractors is subject to authorization by the involved National Delegation(s). Therefore, bidding teams are requested to obtain a Letter of Authorization from all their national delegations before submitting a Full Proposal.


• 03 February 2021, 11:00 CET