The CAESAR feasibility study, finished in March 2014, focused on a service able to provide detailed and timely information on the weather and marine conditions to the maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) coordination centres, with the aim of reducing the risks and improving the efficiency of SAR operations. Improvements in both the quality of the information provided and the communication links that are used to distribute relevant information to the key actors involved in the maritime SAR process were covered by the project activities. Both the feasibility of technological issues concerning the service and the commercial aspects were examined in the project.
Objectives of the service
The project was a feasibility study with the objective of investigating the technical possibilities and commercial aspects of providing weather and sea-state related information for maritime search and rescue operations. The feasibility, including pros and cons, of both terrestrial and space-based assets for the collection, localization and distribution of the meteorological measurements was addressed in the project. Also, numerical weather prediction and issues related to situational overview of maritime SAR were within the scope of the project.
The overall objectives of the project required the completion of sub-objectives. These included e.g. the identification of stakeholders and end-users of the maritime SAR domain, description of user needs, review of existing technologies and services, specification of the system and services and assessment of the commercial viability of the proposed solution.
Users and their needs
The end users of the CAESAR system are actors involved in maritime Search and Rescue operations:
- Personnel of the maritime rescue coordination centres (MRCC or MRSC)
- Crew members of SAR (and other) vessels taking part in a SAR operation
- Personnel at weather forecast centres providing forecasts based on the observation data from the system
Maritime search and rescue operations occur often in harsh weather conditions. The maritime rescue coordination centres need reliable and up to date information about the weather and sea state to be able to conduct safe operations without risking the rescue assets. Knowledge of the prevailing conditions can first be used to choose the optimal rescue assets for a task and then to optimize their routing. Detailed knowledge of wind and drift conditions at the distress site provides a base for faster search operations when the potential area of the victim can be estimated more precisely.
Service/ system concept
The CAESAR concept is based on getting additional observation data from a SAR operation area, e.g. from droppable buoys, other vessels in the area, or from satellite images, and using these observations in providing more detailed current weather and sea state information and generating more detailed local weather, sea state and drift forecasts to support decision-making in an operation.
Space Added Value
Space assets play a significant role in meteorological services for maritime search and rescue. Satellite navigation and positioning are essential elements in any SAR mission. Earth observation produces data for weather forecasting and satellite images can also be used in SAR operations, depending on the nature of the operation and availability of suitable images. Satellite communications are used for voice and data transmissions in areas that are not covered by terrestrial networks.
Benefits brought by the project include:
- Knowledge of the current operational methods in maritime SAR
- Understanding of the user needs
- Review and synthesis of existing solutions and their correspondence to the user needs
- System and service specifications serving as a starting point for potential development projects for providing customized weather and sea state data focused on SAR operations
- Roadmap of the main issues related to meteorological services requiring further development in the maritime SAR domain
The proposed system, initiated by a maritime SAR operation, collects observations from near-by vessels, smart buoys and droppable buoys, sends the measurements directly to the control room of Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and as input data for meteorological and marine models to be used with other existing data (including satellite observations), processes the data (both raw data and output from weather forecast models) for comprehensive and clear visualization and disseminates the information for various users involved in the SAR operation both on land and at sea, e.g. in the control room of Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and on-board of rescue fleet (vessels, helicopters, etc.).
The proposed CAESAR system consists of the following elements as shown in the figure below:
- Stationary buoys for obtaining sea-state measurements and real-time validation of high-resolution forecasts
- Drifters to be deployed on-demand in SAR operations for collecting current field observations from the SAR target area
- Vessels for collecting weather and sea-state observations
- AIS network and SatCom as means of transmitting data from drifters
- Meteorological data processing for providing tailored high-resolution forecasts, visibility products and icing products
- External interface to AIS target databases for delivering drifter location data
- MRCC and SAR asset GUIs for the delivery and visualization of the weather and sea-state data to relevant end-users
Key issues addressed in the project include:
- Identification of weather and sea-state attributes affecting airborne and surface SAR vessels
- Utilization of stationary and drifting buoys for measuring weather and sea-state in specific locations
- Completion of buoy-based measurements with satellite-based measurements for more extensive coverage
The project was finished in March 2014. It was concluded that commercial potential in the envisaged CAESAR system as a whole could not be identified. This is due to the fact that the topics addressed in the CAESAR project are normally dealt with by governmental organisations. However, each of the proposed elements of the CAESAR service carries some added value, but the amount of effort required varies. The amount of effort should be used as one criterion for the prioritization of the CAESAR service elements and their further development. The recommendation is to first pursue the drifting service and the visibility/icing service using the funding sources available to the stakeholders. The technologies required to implement these services include e.g. drifters and ship-based observations, which should be pursued first due to their low cost. An extensive deployment of stationary buoys would require national, inter-organizational co-operation so that the relatively high costs associated with them could be covered by several application areas utilizing the data from the stationary buoys.