Smart and Uncrewed Shipping

ESA is ready to support Industry in developing and demonstrating services addressing Smart and Uncrewed Shipping that are enabled by converged Space and 5G communications and/or advanced PNT technologies. 

On 17 March 2021, the European Space Agency (ESA), in coordination with several maritime stakeholders throughout Europe, will launch a Call for Proposals. The call will invite companies to submit their ideas for deploying and demonstrating commercially sustainable space-based services relying on innovative technologies in Telecommunications and Satellite Navigation, such as 5G and advanced PNT (Positioning, Navigation and Timing) technologies. Solutions are expected to address the needs identified by maritime stakeholders including European ports, EU and government agencies, maritime authorities, industry associations and alliances. 

With respect to the UK, ESA is cooperating with the UK Space Agency, UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and Department for Transport (DfT).  This collaboration is based on the Memorandum of Intent signed in December 2019 by ESA and DCMS, the main purpose of which is to support the emergence of space-based, commercially sustainable products and services, enabled by the deployment of converged 5G terrestrial and space networks. The ESA and DfT collaboration is in view of the development and roll-out of new forms of mobility and transport.

The services shall demonstrate innovation in the application of advanced PNT and/or converged Space and 5G terrestrial communications networks in the maritime sector, paving the way for new connectivity, navigation solutions and sustainable business models for stakeholders operating in this sector. Such services could be conceived to enable improved autonomy and navigation of maritime vessels, efficiency and/or security of port operations, sustainability of processes in the maritime domain, and more.

The call will invite companies to submit proposals for development and demonstration projects showcasing the value of innovative space-based downstream services and solutions in the smart and uncrewed shipping domain. The call themes and use cases have been defined through dialogue with a number of European stakeholders. 

In the UK, besides the contributions of DCMS and DfT outlining UK government strategic priorities in the sector, conversations took place also with stakeholders such as the British Ports Association and UK Major Ports. 

The projects will be funded through the ARTES 5G and Space Solutions programmes of ESA, with a possible supporting contribution of the NAVISP (Navigation Innovation and Support Programme) in relation to the development of advanced navigation technologies.

 “The added value of space technologies in the maritime sector has been self-evident for a long time. The advent of novel telecommunications and navigation capabilities will enable yet more innovative applications in this burgeoning sector, and this call for proposals will catalyse their development and deployment”, stated Elodie Viau, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman from DCMS said: "I look forward to seeing the exciting proposals on how we can harness innovations in space-based and 5G technology to boost our maritime shipping sector. This is the latest in a long list of cutting-edge projects we are funding to explore how 5G-powered emerging technologies, from driverless vehicles to drones, can be the rocket fuel British industries need to build back better from the pandemic.”

Proposals can be submitted anytime until 15 September 2021. Please note that two deadlines will be in place – the first on 15 June, the second on 15 September.  Proposals will be assessed and feedback provided at each of these times.

Join in on 17 March 2021 CET for a live conversation with representatives of ESA, DCMS, UKSA, DfT and experts within the maritime sector to reflect on this opportunity, the problems and opportunities within maritime today and those anticipated in the future. 

The call is open to European companies from subscribed member states. Additional information can be found at:

16 March 2021
Last updated at 16 March 2021 - 14:39